STOCKTON, Calif. — Over in Stockton and nestled in the Lincoln Shopping Center, a small barbershop is looking for an extra bit of space on their walls. Bobby Page, a barber with 31 years in the craft, is tasking himself with enlisting a few more veteran photos into an ever-growing battalion on his walls.
“I still have five I gotta frame that are new people,” Page said.
Adorning the walls of Village Barber Shop are roughly 250 photos of men and women who served in the military. Each one of the faces is either a family member or, at the very least, a one-time customer.
The collection is jaw-dropping and carries photos of veterans who served as far back as World War II. Page said new additions usually happen while talking with customers that previously served.
"I say, 'Why don't you honor me? Why don't you give me one of your pictures?' It just kept steamrolling down, and here I am," he said.
His connection to each and every one of those photos and the veterans in his community is the reason why he became the first-ever Citizen Veteran Supporter of the Year -- a new award from the AMVET Richard A. Pittman Post #1947.
“It’s not just putting a picture up on a wall. It’s the connection that he has with those people,” said Michael L. Emerson, Commander of Post #1947.
With a wall-to-wall display of photos, fundraisers, and deep appreciation for veterans, Emerson said Page was the perfect candidate for this year's award.
“It seems to me like, besides his barbershop, the second most important thing to him is helping and supporting veterans," Emerson said.
The new award is specifically for people who have never served in the military. Despite his appreciation for veterans, Page himself has never served but it wasn't for any lack of desire or effort.
In his early years, he was part of the NJROTC program at Stagg High School and had aspirations to join the Air Force. But he learned that his hearing problems would keep him from reaching that goal.
RELATED: How California got its name
"It’s been a good journey for me personally, because like I said, I was deprived of the opportunity to wear that uniform but I don’t want to let them (veterans) ever forget that we love and appreciate them every day,” Page said.
On Dec. 1, the local veterans returned that appreciation with the new award. The proverbial icing on the cake was that it came from AMVET's Richard A. Pittman Post #1947, a group named after a Medal of Honor recipient and a regular at Page's barbershop.
“To be the first one… that’s very cool by itself. I wear that proudly to represent my guys and say 'Hey, we’ve done some pretty great things,'” Page said.
It's a bit of positivity and light for Page as he's forced to temporarily close down his shop due to coronavirus restrictions in San Joaquin County. Despite the upheaval, he's still confident about finding a way forward.