By B.C. Manion
An American flag flapped in the breeze as a crowd of more than 150 gathered in Dade City on Veterans Day to pay tribute to those who stepped forward to defend freedom.
Those assembled at Travelers Rest Resort on Nov. 11 filled rows of folding chairs, stood along the edge of the road or pulled up and parked their golf carts on the perimeter of the crowd.
The audience also turned out to celebrate the groundbreaking for the Travelers Rest Veterans Memorial that will honor veterans of the past, present and future.
Micky Graham, who was a corporal in the Marine Corps, is leading the efforts to create the memorial and he served as master of ceremonies at the event.
The ceremonial groundbreaking came near the end of a solemn and dignified tribute to veterans.
The ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Dick Revell, an Army veteran who is helping with the memorial effort.
After reciting the pledge, the crowd joined in singing The Star-Spangled Banner, as music for the anthem played on a loud speaker.
After that came remarks from honored guests.
Toni Gross, president of the American Gold Star Mothers Tampa Gulf Coast North, addressed the crowd. She became a member of the group after her only son, Army Cpl. Frank Gross, died on July 16, 2011 from injuries he received from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He was 25.
“We live in the land of the free because of the brave,” Gross said, adding she looks forward to seeing the completed veterans memorial, which is expected to be showcased in January.
Revell reminded the crowd of the importance of setting aside Veterans Day to honor those who have stepped up for this country.
“There is loyalty in the act of remembrance,” Revell said. “That’s what this is all about today — being loyal to the men and women who have served this great nation. … I want to thank the veterans who are here today and all veterans from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan or any place that our men and women are put in harm’s way. We can’t do enough to thank them.”
Warren Sherlock, chairman of the recreational vehicle resort’s board, said the veterans memorial will be a fine addition to the park.
“I remember growing up going to my grandparents house every Sunday for dinner,” Sherlock said. “On the walls, there were pictures of all my uncles in uniform. I also remember them talking about how my mother and my aunts used to sit around the radio trying to hear what was going on with the war. … This memorial is a great way to remember my uncles, all of our families, our neighbors, our friends who served in order for us to be here today.”
After the speakers were done, Graham and several other men grabbed shovels and lifted a scoop of dirt in the official groundbreaking.
The event ended with the playing of a recording of Taps.
Graham said he is pleased with the progress being made on the memorial. So far, more than $16,000 has been raised for the project, which is expected to cost about $20,000.
The memorial will feature an American flag atop a 25-foot flagpole flanked by flags on both sides representing each of the military branches, Revell said. There also will be flags for the National Guard, those missing in action and prisoners of war, he said.
Granite stones will be placed in front of each flag containing the service emblem of the branch of the military, Revell said.
The memorial also includes a veterans memorial walk, which will consist of bricks containing the names of veterans, their unit and branch of service.
Want to help?
The cost of the project is being paid for through the sale of the commemorative bricks, which go for $100 for the first brick and $50 for each additional brick.
To purchase a brick or to simply make a donation, make a check out to Travelers Rest Veterans Memorial Fund and send it to Dick Revell at Travelers Rest, 29129 Johnston Road, Dade City, FL 33523.