Two-year-old Niko Brock dipped his head low under the crisscrossed bungees, imitating the older kids doing the “army crawl” at Buchanan High’s first annual Bear Boot Camp, a family event to celebrate central San Joaquin Valley veterans.
A kiddie-friendly obstacle course spread across a grassy field on campus where little ones like Niko played games and made military-themed crafts in honor of those who have served.
The spiky-haired youngster didn’t quite catch on to the drill — instead of crawling on knees and elbows under the bungee barrier, he carefully stretched each cord over his head to the cheers and laughs of his grandma, Juanita Cairns.
“He didn’t quite know how to crawl under there so he went in and out,” she said.
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It was a family affair for many at the celebration, which included letter writing to service members, face painting and a craft table, where attendees constructed remembrance poppies out of red felt.
Niko’s father, Austin Brock, helped organize Tuesday’s event, one of two on Veterans Day that honored three Buchanan High graduates: a pair of brothers and a best friend who were killed while serving in Iraq. Marine Cpl. Jeremiah Baro and Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard were best buddies who perished on the same day when a roadside bomb detonated in 2004. Hubbard’s younger brother, Army Cpl. Nathan Hubbard, died in a helicopter crash in 2007.
The annual Hubbard Baro Golf Tournament fundraiser, which this year marked its 10th anniversary, was played in the morning at the Fort Washington Country Club. Since the tournament was created in 2004, more than $220,000 has been raised and donated to the Fresno Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Event organizer Andi Ruiz said the two events help bring families together on a day that’s significant for many.
Veterans Day is of special importance to Ruiz, a Buchanan High graduate who was friends with Baro and the Hubbard brothers. Bear Boot Camp helps give kids exposure to the meaning of Veterans Day, she said.
“We want to be able to have everybody enjoy the day,” she said. “We want the kids to witness the military experience in a fun manner (and) just have everybody’s involvement.”