Many of the veterans gathered in Walnut Creek's Civic Park Monday joined the Army to fight in the second World War, but not Bob Tharratt.
"I wanted to get into the Air Force because I didn't want to walk," Tharratt said.
Things didn't quite work out that way, though. When his bomber went down, he parachuted into the German countryside.
"Unfortunately, I had landed one-quarter of a mile from a Hitler youth camp," Tharratt said.
Tharrat was taken prisoner and spent the next three months being forced to walk from one prison camp to another until his captors accidentally came face to face with the American 104th infantry.
Dick Ingraham was a part of that group that liberated Tharratt.
Independently, both men later moved to Walnut Creek.
"It was years later that I first ran into bob at St. Paul's Episcopal Church up here," Ingraham said.
In addition to the medals they've earned through their service, their stories earned them a standing ovation at Monday's ceremony. Each of the men hopes to teach something by sharing their stories this Memorial Day. For Ingraham, it's partly about that little bit of laughter that can get you through the toughest of times.
"There are humorous moments in combat; not very many, but there are some," Ingraham said.
For Tharratt, it's about not taking freedom for granted.
"We, the older generation, you know, gave them that freedom and they've got to pass it on to their next generation," he said.