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A sense of community means something to military families. On Friday afternoon, that community came together along Bayshore Boulevard in South Tampa to honor one of their own.
Coming from all over the city, supporters of the military came out to honor U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matt Sitton, 26, of Largo who was killed by an improvised explosive device last week in Afghanistan.
Many of those who came to show their support for the family of the 2004 Indian Rocks Christian graduate are veterans themselves. Bill Castens of the Northdale Owls came out with two dozen of his Civic Association colleagues to show his support for the family and make sure that a veteran of the wars the country faces now doesn't receive the homecoming that troops did when they returned from Vietnam.
"I served in Vietnam, and when guys came home back then they didn't receive much appreciation," Castens said. "No matter how you feel about war, the troops are just doin' what they are supposed to do. A lot of my friends didn't make it home, so we do this every time a fallen soldier comes back. It's just a bit of your time to honor someone who pays the price for our freedom. It isn't free."
Seffner's Dianne Gladky was in attendance to show her appreciation as well. With several of her family members currently serving in the United States Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and Army, Gladky knows the importance of the community coming around the family of a fallen soldier.
"It's important to be here because that family is devastated and will never be the same," Gladky said. "I sometimes wonder what it means to the families to see us out here, but I think it makes them feel good. These people deserve to at least have a good feeling to see all these people who don't even know them coming out and supporting them."
Sitton's widow, Sarah, wanted the community to know they were welcome to line the roadway during the procession and show their support. She shared her admiration and love for her husband, who she said loved his job as a sniper and a ranger.
"I want people to know I still support the military ... I can't be angry at the military or anything. It is what he chose to do," Sarah said. "He wanted to be an American hero when he died."
Sitton leaves behind a 9-month-old son, Brodey. A memorial fund has been established for him with UBS, 150 2nd Avenue N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.