By Tamas Mondovics

Ever since his return from serving his country, World War II veteran Corporal Richard H. Coates, had just one wish; to get an official welcome home festivity after serving three and a half years overseas and to be presented with a flag.

Coates, 96, was unable to return to the United States at the end of the war due to the misplacement of his service records delaying his homecoming for nearly three months, resulting in his preclusion from the country’s victory celebration.

While it took Coates more than 70 years for his wish to come true, his family including his four daughters and a son felt was better late than never.

To that end, the family decided to host a surprise welcome home neighborhood parade as well as to officially present their war veteran father with an American flag.

“He had mentioned this to us time to time and we thought since it is so important to him we should organize our own personal celebration of his return from the war as well as to show his grand children and great grand children as well as this generation how much we appreciate and celebrate our World War II vets,” said Coates oldest daughter, Karen Alice Coates, who was just one month old when her dad shipped out. It took three years before her dad had a chance to see her again.

Perhaps a little late, but Coates was honored by his now much larger and extended family along with dozens of friends and neighbors on this year’s Veterans Day, which interestingly also fell on the exact day, 75 years ago at the age of 21 that he has joined the army in 1942.

“I am honored and exploding with pride,” Coates said following the parade-ride around the neighborhood of his Brandon home on his patriotically decorated golf cart. “I have received not just a flag but a whole parade.”

Coates next door neighbor, Don Lovett, 62, a Vietnam veteran himself took charge in leading the procession, not to mention adding to the festivities by grilling some burgers and hot dogs for the family and to all who had come to show their support celebrating this year’s Veterans Day.

“This is a beautiful event,” Lovett said. “I love the entire family and it is wonderful that they have not forgotten their dad’s sacrifice, honoring him by organizing his very own homecoming.”

Of course, the event could not have been complete without some dessert, while cameras were clicking from every angle including a family photo, which thanks to all present took a bit of organizing.

Pleased with how things had turned out and what the children were able to accomplish in honor of their dad, youngest daughter Rhonda Noland Coates, exclaimed, “I am so happy for the support of the community and their willingness to come out to line the street and make dad feel special. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

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