His first real exposure to heroism came when his mother married a man who served with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.
“I don’t think he believed he would come back alive,” Gov. Rick Scott told local veterans last week of his stepfather. “In the Navy, no one shot at me, and I didn’t have to jump out of perfectly good airplanes like he did.” But it’s because of his stepfather Scott said he realized that “America will remain the land of the free only so long as it remains the home of the brave.”
Scott visited with veterans last week at the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans’ Home on Parkway Boulevard, sharing stories, and handing out his Veterans Service Awards medals.
“It’s so important that we honor and give thanks to our American veterans, our heroes,” Scott said. “It is important that we don’t wait just for the holidays to thank our men and women, we must take every opportunity to thank them.”
The medal Scott and his wife Ann gave to veterans in Land O’ Lakes last week has the Florida state seal on front, and the five seals representing the different branches of the armed forces on the back.
Scott singled out one resident during his speech, Sgt. First Class Angel Torres-Mendez, who served between 1947 and 1974, completing 18 missions — many of them solo missions — in Vietnam.
“He’s proud of his accomplishments, not his medal,” Scott said. “Like many of our residents here, his heart is as patriotic as it was when he joined the service many years ago.”
A total of 136 veterans were honored with the medal during last Thursday’s ceremony, honoring whom Sen. John Legg described as “super.” Legg, R-Lutz, shared a conversation he said he had with his 5-year-old son that morning about where he was going.
“’I am going to go stand and talk to some heroes,’ and his eyes got real big, ‘Are you going to meet Superman?’” Legg said. “I am going to see some super men and super women who, in our nation’s darkest hour, stood in front of tyranny, stood in front of those things that seemed hopeless, and brought light into the world.”
Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., who has served as the adjutant general of Florida for the last three years, said the state’s 12,000-soldier strong National Guard is “focused on the future, and our horizons.”
“But we have a deep appreciation of our heritage, and that heritage you contributed to and built,” Titshaw said. “We literally stand upon your shoulders and accomplishments, taking over the nation you provided to us, safe and secure.”