SEBASTIAN – With attendance that rivaled that of the Vero Beach-Indian River County Memorial Day service, more than 1,000 Sebastian residents turned out to pay their respects and give thanks to the men and women who served and died in the U.S. military.
“Today, we honor those who have gone before us,” Rabbi John Goldring said, addressing the crowd.
Gazing out at the sea of faces, American Legion Post 189 Commander Jack Willis said he has lived in many cities, but none like Sebastian.
“Sebastian is the most patriotic,” he said, garnering applause and whistles. “Today is not a day of celebration, but a day to remember.”
He said he had been asked before what would have happened if America had not fought in the wars it had been involved in.
“I don’t know,” Commander Willis said, adding that he did know countries such as Germany, France, England, Kuwait and others would be less free if not for America’s soldiers.
“It is the soldier who has the greatest desire for peace,” he said.
Skydivers dotted the sky and planes passed overhead during the ceremony at Memorial Park in Sebastian’s Riverview Park. Those in attendance sought out shade or made their own, using umbrellas to block the high sun.
County Commissioner Joe Flescher addressed the crowd.
“Is this not the greatest country on earth?” he asked. “You know it is.”
He counted off the numerous freedoms Americans have – all thanks to the brave actions of the country’s military men and women.
“The price to pay, unfortunately, is that big check,” Flescher said, referring to the ultimate sacrifice soldiers have made.
Retired Master Sergeant Army Andrea Coy, a Sebastian City Council member, served as the keynote speaker for Sebastian’s ceremony.
She warned those in the audience to be wary of those who pass themselves off as service men and women seeking financial donations. She recounted an incident about a month ago – shortly after Osama Bin Laden’s “appointment” with U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 where an out of area group posing as service men set up a table outside an area business to take donations. When Coy questioned them about their location and military affiliation, she became suspicious and went to speak with the manager, she said.
By the time she and the manager emerged from the store to address the solicitors – they were gone – with Sebastian residents’ money.
“Know before you throw,” Coy cautioned the audience. She said the Sebastian veterans’ groups are legitimate, selling poppies and cookies and they won’t ever solicit money from motorists along the road.
Anyone else, she said, is suspect.
“This is a time to reconnect with our history and core values,” Coy said of recognizing Memorial Day, adding that each one who died was loved and mourned by family and friends – a loss to their communities.
She said Memorial Day in recent years has come to mean a three-day weekend, which has led some to forget the true meaning of the day.
“But you are not forgetting” what the day means, Coy said. She encouraged the audience to hold a moment of silence no matter where they are at 3 p.m. as a “Moment of Remembrance.”
“We can all make a difference,” she said.
The ceremony concluded with the reading of names of veterans from the Sebastian area who passed away this year – 46 were recognized. The Sebastian Honor Guard conducted a 21-gun salute and Taps, performed by bugler Luis Pena, of the Sebastian River High School band.