Thousands attend Memorial Day ceremony in Vero Beach

VERO BEACH — Thousands of people, from infants to the elderly, flocked over the bridge to Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary for the Memorial Day Ceremony, honoring members of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The Island exists as a tribute from the community to honor all veterans, especially those who served in Indian River County.  All branches of service are represented on the tranquil sanctuary that has been a labor of love, cared for by residents from Vero Beach, Sebastian, Fellsmere and Indian River County. In 1947, Alex Mac Williams, Sr., a decorated World War I veteran and a member of the State Legislature convinced the Florida State Department to turn over the Island to the City of Vero Beach.  The Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary Committee, chaired by Mac William’s daughter Helen Glenn, oversees the Island in cooperation with the Veteran’s Council of Indian River County.

After introducing distinguished guests in attendance, Lt. Col. Eric “Rip” Wieler, USMC (Ret.) who currently serves as president of the Veterans Council, introduced Charlie Cox, U. S. Navy CB’s for the invocation.  He also presented Cox who turned 100 years-old this past March, with a certificate of appreciation, recognizing him as a Delegate Emeritus for his support of the Council.

“All I can say is, when I grow up I want to be just like Charlie,” joked Wieler.

The flag-waving crowd, joined in with pride as the Vero Beach High School Band, led by James Sammons, performed the National Anthem and a selection of patriotic songs.  Other participants in the ceremony included VBHS JROTC Cadet Kyle O’Leary who impressed with his Silent Rifle Drill and vocalist Dolores Mark Chambers who sang several moving pieces.

Two local recruiters, Staff Sgt. Jack Main and Sgt. Brian Wright, were led by Piper Michael Hyde, USMM to the memorial marker for Ronald Scott Owens, for the Placing of the Wreath.  Owens, who died while serving as an Electronics Warfare Technician on the USS Cole, is the most recent veteran from this area to be killed in action.

Keynote speaker Col. Martin Zickert, USAF (Ret.) served in the Air Force for 30 years beginning in 1963.  Remarking that the Gulf War will be 20 years old in August, he said, “Out of my 69 years, for 44 of them we have been at war.

Zickert closed with a poem written in 1968 by Capt. Jerry Coffee, USN Ret while in Hanoi; Coffee was held in North Vietnam, as a POW for seven years.

One More Roll

We toast our hearty comrades who have fallen from the skies, and were gently caught by God’s own hand to be with him on High.

To dwell among the soaring clouds they’ve known so well before.  From victory roll to tail chase, at heaven’s very door.

As we fly among them there, we’re sure to head their plea. To take care my friend, watch your six, and do one more roll for me.

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