Years served in the U.S. Navy: 35.
Combat missions flown: 400.
Flight hours logged: 6,025.
Medals for valor: 50-plus.
School buildings dedicated in his honor: 1.
In a stirring salute to a local war hero, Jurupa Unified has dedicated a restored historic building at West Riverside Elementary to Rear Admiral Allen E. “Boot" Hill.
The storied veteran, a Rubidoux native, is a proud West Riverside alumnus.
“Overwhelmed is an understatement," Adm. Hill said of his reaction to the Nov. 20 Ribbon Cutting and Dedication program that praised the admiral's courage, character and service to country.
The ceremony – attended by students, educators, community members and dignitaries – included remarks from JUSD leaders, Adm. Hill, another local veteran, and two West Riverside students.
Elliott Duchon, superintendent of Jurupa Unified, said that true patriotism springs not from words or intentions but from actions and commitment like Adm. Hill's.
School board President Robert Garcia, also a veteran of the Navy, added a touch of nostalgia with a tour of Navy recruiting ads over the decades. (“It's not just a job, it's an adventure.")
Jonathan Montes De Oca, a West Riverside sixth-grader, told the audience: “This day will be remembered as a great day for our school."
And David Barnes, an Army veteran and former local news publisher, shared a few sea stories starring Adm. Hill, who flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam. In one anecdote, Mr. Hill's plane was shot down in Vietnam, he bailed from the sinking aircraft under enemy fire, and he returned to combat. In another, the aviator helped save 200 Marines outnumbered by the enemy in a firefight.
“It was these kinds of things that happened a lot," Mr. Barnes said. “All of us who have been in combat know that leaders like him saved lives."
Adm. Hill then relayed a story himself – recalling a childhood experience that helped set his life path. To paraphrase, he said:
As kids, my friends and I kept watch on a nearby dirt runway, which later became Flabob Airport. It was used by aircraft every two to three months, sometimes as an emergency airfield. One afternoon, a blue plane landed, engine sputtering. As it came to a stop, the kids all ran over. Minutes later, a blue Ford convertible pulled up, driven by an extremely attractive blonde. The pilot jumped out, said hello, kissed her, got in and they drove off. The plane was towed away a couple of days later. “I said to myself, 'I could do that.' "
And he did, right down to winning the hand of his blonde wife, Jacqueline.
Adm. Hill continued:
The point is that a young kid can dream about things and have those dreams fulfilled, working hard at them. So I think the children here at this school could do very well by setting objectives.
Student Deanne Dominguez agreed. “Students will be inspired by his legacy and will follow in his footsteps," she said.
After the ceremony, which also featured students leading the flag salute and national anthem and student-musicians performing “America" and “America, My Country Tis of Thee," the admiral cut the red ribbon on the renovated Building 400.
Soon, the refurbished space will be an innovation center and robotics lab that lays groundwork for the engineering career pathway at Jurupa Valley High School, said West Riverside Principal Marcy Hale.
Amenities will include a drone cage, a green screen, a 3D laser printer, and a focus on aviation in honor of Adm. Hill.
Of the dedication, Ms. Hale said, “This is huge for residents, many of whom have lived here for generations, to see a historical monument revamped and reopened for the community – honoring someone who played in their streets. It brings home the reality that kids can be whatever they want to be."
Building 400, constructed in 1935, had been idle for years, educators said. Its renaissance will help inspire students to strive, achieve and learn without limits.
“This building is in honor of a local war hero who was once a West Riverside student, just like me," said Jonathan.
Mr. Barnes said the dedication sent a powerful statement to the veteran community, as well.
“We just about cried when we found out they were going to name this school after Admiral Hill," he said, “because we felt it was for all of us and everyone in the nation who has served our country."