Members of city government, first responders and local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts gathered at on Monday evening for an emotional Memorial Day ceremony to honor the fallen men and women of the military.
Mayor Pat Gerard, State Rep. Jim Frishe of House District 54, VFW Post 10094 member Bill Haynes and the Rev. J. Arnold Johnson of the Largo Police Department all gave heartfelt speeches or read touching tributes at the park’s Military Court of Honor.
But it was retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, a decorated U.S. Army veteran with 37 years of service and former commander of the Hurricane Katrina Joint Task Force, who provided the most moving and inspirational worlds of the evening.
“The act of being able to have a flag to pledge allegiance to…and the act of singing our National Anthem…these symbolic acts have been paid for with the lives of 1.3 million Americans.”
“To reflect on where we are today is to look at where we came from, to remind us that freedom is not free,” he said.
Honore spoke in a firm voice that had the crowd clapping and nodding in approval.
He went on to say that we need to respect all veterans, not just those who gave their lives for our country, but those who are currently fighting so we may enjoy the benefits of living in a free society.
“Today really is about celebrating those who gave their last measure to give comfort to their families. But I know in their hearts…they would want us to treat our veterans better than they are being treated today.”
His closing remarks hit the hardest.
"It’s been said by many of our soldiers in the foxholes that we are a nation at war. We are soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines at war, but on any given day in America, you can’t tell that we are a nation at war.”
The ceremony included a prisoner of war and missing in action rememberance, the presentation of colors, a rifle volley and a stirring bagpipe rendition of"Amazing Grace" by Ashley Brinton of the.
“Let’s remember those who served, let’s encourage future generations to serve, and let’s remember the lives of those who have given their last measure so that we can be here today,” Honore said.