Surrounded by family and friends on Saturday, veteran George Blanton was recognized for his service in the military by two fellow veterans through the Heart 'n' Home Hospice "We Honor Veterans" program.

Blanton, 84, served as a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division in the 1950s.

Born and raised in La Grande, Blanton was a truck driver for Boise Cascade for a number of years after serving in the military until the company eliminated 300 jobs, including his own, he said. He and his wife moved to Las Vegas, where he worked at the casinos and delivered jackpot winnings to people in northern Nevada.

"That was our (responsibility)," he said. "I really enjoyed it."

Blanton retired in 1994 and moved back to La Grande.

On Saturday at his home in Union, his family packed into the living room and paid tribute to his service.

"We're here to respect you, sir," said Sgt. 1st Class Nate Schultze, of Heart 'n' Home Hospice, who, with 1st Sgt. Lou Gerber, delivered the award to Blanton along with an American flag pin. "Words can't express (our gratitude)."

Schultze said the ceremony is something the veteran's family can enjoy.

"It was really about the family being there," he said. "It's a gathering for all of them and a way we can say 'thank you' to the vets."

Schultze said about one-quarter of those in hospice care locally are veterans, and that this ceremony takes place almost weekly.

"We just do it because the vets sacrifice for us. This is part of the promise we make to them - that we'll take care of them," he said.

It means a lot to the family as well.

Blanton's daughter, Sheryl Benson, grandson, Brian Stewart, and great-grandson, Erik Stewart, were just a few of many in attendance at the ceremony.

"It means everything to us," Benson said of the ceremony for her father.

She described her father as a down-to-earth, honest person.

"He's a man of his word," she said.

Blanton has six children, 14 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild. Speaking of those who could make it to the ceremony, Brian Stewart said, "He showed his grandkids the beauty of the area."

Benson said her father enjoys gardening, photography and building furniture. In his younger years, he spent a lot of time camping, fishing and hunting, and took his family with him numerous times.

"He is the greatest person I've ever known," Erik Stewart said.

Benson said Blanton came down with double pneumonia when he entered into hospice care and was already diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

"All my family is here," Blanton said when receiving the award. "They deserve (the award). It's wonderful."