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Veteran, 49ers super fan gifted Super Bowl trip of a lifetime honoring decades of service

<i>KOVR</i><br/>In response
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By Ashley Sharp

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    TRACY, California (KOVR) — A local veteran was surprised with the trip of a lifetime honoring a lifetime of service.

Faithful to the 49ers and Uncle Sam, the story of one man’s loyalty to the nation and Niners is on display wall-to-wall in his Tracy home.

“This is (sic) some of the medals I received while I was in the Army. Vietnam soldiers, Purple Heart,” Johnny Velasquez said as he showed us his collection of military memories.

Enlisting in 1960, Velasquez served tours in Germany and Vietnam for 12 years as a paratrooper, drill sergeant and Screaming Eagle of the 101st Airborne Division.

“I am proud of what I did in the Army. My wife tells me, ‘You left the Army but the Army never left you.’ And it’s true. I’m always a soldier,” he said.

Rising through the ranks, he was promoted to Platoon Sergeant at just 22 years old.

“I was the second youngest Sergeant First Class in the Army. I did not lose a man. Wounded, yes,” Velasquez said.

He came home from Vietnam and served another 32 years at the San Francisco Police Department. Like many Vietnam vets at the time, he hung his head; rejected by friends, family and strangers opposed to the war.

“I wouldn’t wear my uniform. People would spit on soldiers who were waiting on their flights to go home. How sad that was,” he said.

Decades later, he would get the surprise “thank you” of a lifetime.

Velasquez learned over a Zoom call that he was chosen to win two free tickets to the Super Bowl — hand selected by Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens, the USAA and the 101st Airborne Division Association from a pool of worthy veterans.

“I feel humbled, I feel honored. I’ll be honest, I don’t feel like I deserve all this,” he said.

The goal? Saluting service and sacrifice on one of the largest stages in the nation.

“I’ve been a 49er fan probably since 1948,” Velasquez said as he showed us his framed, signed Joe Montana jersey and other Niners nation collectibles.

Now, all his team has to do is make it there, too.

“It would be icing on the cake if the 49ers win. I think they will,” Velasquez said with a smile.

The 49ers need one more win before they punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. They play in the NFC Championship game this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

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