Every high school is proud of its alumni; but in this case, Granada High School was very proud to honor a man for his bravery and for his service to his country. It was a true hero's homecoming for Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Ross.
A veterans motorcycle escort led the way as Staff Sgt. Ross returned to the campus where he graduated 12 years ago. But life has changed for the former Granada High School wrestler. He had become a Marine, was deployed to Afghanistan, and returned home a paraplegic.
The people of Livermore embraced Jason, helping to pay for the special motorized transport device he uses, called a paramobile. $14,000 came from the franchise owners of a Livermore-area Carls Jr. Restaurant and their customers. Another $6,000 was contributed by Livermore Veterans Foundation.
Jason was invited back to Granada Wednesday where the flag was raised in his honor.
"This is very humbling just to see this many people come out," he said. "I wasn't expecting this, not at all. I was just gonna go home, say hi to some friends and not be met by all this."
The Marine's father, George Ross, has been with his son along the road to rehabilitation at two military hospitals. This was Jason's first trip home to Livermore since the traumatic injury.
"He's had well over 220 surgeries and procedures already and he's got more to go through," George said. "They have noted that these are the worst physical injuries that they've ever seen on a patient and have the patient survive."
Jason went out to the mound and did the honors of pitching the first ball. He got big cheers and applause when the pitch was declared a strike.
The Livermore community has created a circle of support around Jason that started with fellow veterans.
"They were very instrumental in starting this," Carl's Jr. franchise owner Pam Anderson Hundal said. "The coach here at Granada has been phenomenal saying, 'yes we're going to dedicate this baseball game to Jason and all the veterans in Livermore.' So it's taken many, many hands and many organizations being involved."
Jason told me he's very proud and moved by the spirit of Livermore and sees Wednesday's ceremonies as support for all wounded warriors from all branches of the military.