NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) – Today marks the first time the United States Navy has come to Nacogdoches to retire one of its own.
Fellow soldiers came from overseas, and friends and family from around the nation gathered at Lake Hansen to honor Ramon' Stripling Sr. in a momentous celebration.
It's been a long journey for GM1 Stripling and his family, but a proud one.
"It helped me to really appreciate life as it used to be and as it is now," said Stripling. "I guess after doing 20 years, they'll bend over backwards to show you their appreciation and that makes you feel good."
"It's wonderful to watch him become a man in the form of a soldier," said his mother, Patricia Veal, who contacted the Navy, and organized the event.
Today, the United States Naval Reserve at Shreveport came to East Texas to retire Stripling, with a full flag ceremony.
"Normally the retirement ceremonies are done in naval installations and ships and what not, but to be in Nacogdoches, Texas, I mean this is huge," said Roderick Williams, who is stationed in Guam, and came all the way to East Texas to honor his friend and fellow soldier.
Stripling has served all over the world. He spent the last three years in the Naval Munition Command Unit in Guam.
"He's an outstanding soldier, outstanding sailor, outstanding father, just all around great guy," said Williams.
Stripling is looking forward to being home for good.
"My boys are getting big enough to start a lot of sports and my daughter is getting big, doing her things now. I get to be there to see it and not be away," he said.
"I hate to see him go but his time is up. Time to move on," said Williams.
But, not without the honor of knowing he served his country proudly.
Stripling's future plans include owning and operating a mobile catering service.
His family will settle in Midlothian, Texas.