Greg and Lori Coumas have gone through more than their share of ups and downs since their 22-year-old son, Kyle, died last October in Afghanistan.
On Memorial Day, the Coumases were thanked for Kyle's bravery and service as an Army infantryman during a special ceremony at the Woodbridge Masonic Cemetery.
The Lodi Elks Lodge presented Kyle Coumas' parents with the Elks' Medal of Valor, which honors soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice, said Suzanne Henderson, the Lodi lodge's exhalted ruler.
"It's the least that we can do that is tangible for them to remember their son," Henderson said after the service.
The Coumases quietly and graciously accepted the Medal of Valor, which has Kyle Coumas' name inscribed and attached to a folded American flag.
Coumas, who grew up in Lockeford and graduated from St. Mary's High School in Stockton in 2005, was killed on Oct. 21, 2009, after the vehicle he was driving was hit by an improvised explosive device in the province of Kandahar. He died on a helicopter on the way to a hospital.
Coumas' service was also recognized on Monday at Cherokee Memorial Park, where a balloon with his name on it was released in the air.
"He was a hero for our country," Henderson said during the Woodbridge ceremony. "We need to express something more than a silent presentation." The audience then broke out in applause for Coumas' parents.
Lori Coumas' long-time friend, Sharon Emig, talked about Kyle Coumas' life. He was frustrated about being assigned to the Army mailroom in Iraq last summer and campaigned to be transferred into the infantry, Emig recalled. Kyle, whom Emig described as "140 pounds soaking wet," was elated when he got to be in the center of action, even though it would ultimately cost him his life.
"Your being here is being appreciated by more than words can describe," Emig told the crowd at the cemetery. "You're thanking him."
Emig noted that while she heard that Coumas never quit or complained in the Army, he was a typical kid when it came to doing household chores.
"He always complained about mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage and cleaning up after the dog," she said.
"The house is just going to get dirty again, Mom," Emig recalls Kyle saying.
Senior Master Sgt. Aleck Dambacher, who retired from the U.S. Air Force and is now a Woodbridge Masonic Lodge member, discussed the history of the Memorial Day holiday. Dambacher, who lives in Thornton, said that the holiday has diminished in value since Congress made it a 3-day weekend in 1971.
Now it's become a holiday where you can buy two mattresses for the price of one, Dambacher said.
The ceremony also included selections by the Lodi Community Band, a recollection of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg and wreaths placed by various veterans groups.
Other local Memorial Day ceremonies were held at Lodi Memorial Cemetery, Cherokee Memorial Park, Harmony Grove Cemetery in Lodi, Glenview Cemetery in Clements and Galt Cemetery.