We have watched Gustavo "Tavo" Llerenas grow up over the years attending and graduating from Gridley schools to joining the Navy and now serving as Petty Officer First Class Llerenas.
Kindergarteners in Stacey Cranfill's McKinley School classroom were not only very attentive and respectful last Wednesday, they took up his whole visit asking questions. The students were most interested in the Navy uniform Llerenas wore complete with many ribbons and stripes which peaked their interest. What was amazing was the fact that each question asked was a different question about a different part of his uniform, never asking the same question twice, proving how well they were listening to each well described answer.
As a member of the US Navy for the past 10 years, Petty Officer First Class Llerenas wanted to serve his country and as he explained to the students he wanted to be a Medic to help others.
"I apply bandaids, work with medicines so they feel better," he told the young students. "I also take their temperatures, like a doctor's office does."
Asked about his stripes, he told the student that he has a stripe for each four years of service, explaining he has two because he has spent at least eight years in the Navy. When asked what the different colored ribbons stood for he told the students, "Each ribbon tells a story of where I have served in weapons training," he said. Llerenas told the kids the blue ribbon stood for working with soldiers in England, Poland, Georgia, all over the world. He has a ribbon for serving overseas several times, a purple ribbon for good conduct, one for serving in Afghanistan, one for working at defense during time of war and two for doing good things for the Navy.
"I worked with a Marine unit in Afghanistan and had to pass tests and I received this ribbon for that work," he pointed out.
When asked why he wears "the outfit," Llerenas explained that the "outfit" started in the beginning, October 1, 1776 when the Navy was first established with wooden ships and uniforms made of wool.
The Navy has taken Llerenas to many wonderful destinations, the current one San Diego where he is stationed after spending three years in Hawaii.
When asked, "Why do you sail across the sea all the time?" Llerenas answered, "To help other nations when the President sends us. It is a good thing to help people. I wanted to help more people."
Llerenas explained that his last award was for training airmen and seamen to save lives, an eagle standing on a platform, which is a signal of picking up rank as soldier.
"The white stripes are called piping," he explained.
Attending Boot Camp in Chicago, Illinois, Llerenas then worked in a hospital in Italy two years, San Diego four years, Afghanistan and then Hawaii to help people, not to mention Vietnam, Sri Lanka among other locations.
When asked why he had a hood on his uniform, Llerenas explained the hood is a tradition from the 1800's when the hood wood flap in the wind and would let the Captain know it was too windy to be outside.
Petty Officer First Class Llerenas showed the children how to take their own pulse explaining how the heart is important to stay alive.
"You need your heart and blood to keep alive and be able to move your arms and legs around. Keep the body circulating blood.
Asked why he likes taking care of people he replied, "My Nana (the late Cuco Herrera) took care of a lot of people. I am continuing that tradition."
Petty Officer First Class Llerenas will serve as a Support Medic for a Navy Seal team in San Diego upon his return there.