SEBASTIAN — Several hundred gathered at the Veterans Memorial in Riverview Park Thursday to remember those who have put their life on the line, serving in the country’s military. Chief among those recognized were Prisoners of War and those listed as Missing In Action.
“Today, we revere all our veterans,” said Father Dave Newhart, of St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church.
The audience was introduced to a handful of local veterans who represent each of the five branches of the US military – Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard-Merchant Marine – each receiving a round of applause.
“Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude,” American Legion Post 189 member Barney Giordan told the audience, asking them that any time they see a veteran to take a moment and thank him or her for serving the country.
Keynote speaker CSM Ed Britt, of the US Army, recounted the raid of Son Tay in North Vietnam – an attempt to bring home more than 70 prisoners of war in an operation called “Ivory Coast.”
He called the POWs the “real heroes” for enduring years of mistreatment from confinement and malnutrition to regular beatings and torture.
CSM Britt recalled the Military Code of Conduct, in particularly the third article, which mandates that soldiers who are captured must resist as much as possible, do what they can to escape and help others to do the same.
Those in the Special Forces – Green Berets – who worked on Operation Ivory Coast trained well in advance of the raid on Son Tay – but only at night, when they erected a replica of the POW camp. By dawn, they’d tear down the replica and wipe away any and all vehicular tracks and footprints before Russian satellites passed over.
CSM Britt told the crowd that their military servicemen “had a ball confusing the hell out of the Russians.”
The recounting of the Son Tay raid was one of many reasons residents felt the need to come out to the Veterans Day Ceremony.
Millicent Henry-Pulliam, a veteran of the US Navy, brought her daughter, Jael Henry-Walker, to the ceremony to honor her fellow service men and women.
Jael would have been in school otherwise, she said, but felt that being at the ceremony was more important.
She said it is a difficult life to live, especially when there is family involved. Many times, she said, she had to leave her family to answer the nation’s call for duty.
“The separation is very, very difficult,” Henry-Pulliam said. Often, she would have to pack her bag and don her dog tags, ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
Jael wasn’t born at that time, but said that if she had been, she would have worried about her mom and wondered if she would come home.
As a veteran, Henry-Pulliam said that she appreciates that the public attended the ceremony and asks them, if they get the opportunity, to go to Washington, D.C., to view all the different memorials for veterans and those who served.
“Just say thank you,” Millicent said of the public who encounters a veteran. “You don’t know what it means to them.”