Rockin’ America raises the roof and salutes the troops

VERO BEACH — Patriotism and pride predominated, with plenty of red, white and blue, uniforms and camo-garb, and a few WWII era styles thrown in for good measure, at Rockin’ America: Salute to our Armed Services to benefit the Heritage Center. 

The military-themed event honored past and present members of the armed forces, and also paid tribute to the use of the landmark building as a World War II serviceman’s center. Paris Christodoulides once again donated the use of his expansive Paris Air hanger for the event, which was co-chaired by Cathie Callery, Nicki Maslin and Georgia Irish.

The enormous space was filled with entertainment and activities throughout the evening.  A Mess Hall filled with chow catered by Bono’s, was complimented by beverages at the Riverside Café Club, and desert was an incredible showcase cake that tasted as good as it looked. Designed by Sean Pierce of the new bakery Carnival Confections, the cake represented and was dedicated to the Armed Services.

Later, with a full moon rising up over a Stearman biplane at the open end of the hangar, the fabulous Landsharks put the Rockin’ America part into action, getting everyone up onto the dance floor.

If there had been a costume contest, first prize would surely have been awarded to Don and Neda Heeter; he a patriotically authentic Uncle Sam, and she ready to take flight with Amelia Earhart.  Many of those who could still fit into them had donned their old uniforms.

“This was GI issue 67 years ago,” said Kurt Wallach of his Navy blues.  “And I’m only 41 years old, so how do you figure that?”

The Vero Beach Army Recruiting Station attracted a steady stream of marksmen to their tent, all taking aim to show off their best shooting form with the America’s Army weapons stimulator.  Another form of target practice was set up on the other side of the hangar, with guests taking a chance on the always tempting wine toss.

Michelle Dale received a standing ovation of respect from the crowd when she was introduced by Heritage Center Executive Director Rebecca Rickey.  Her son, Army Spc. Dale J. Kridlo, was killed in action on November 7, 2010 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit.

Dale is in the process of setting up a website to collect donations in his memory for Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute, which builds schools in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I feel that’s the best way to honor my son.  He died there; his blood is there,” said Dale adding, “People in Vero have been wonderful.  I’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love”

A traveling Wall of Honor, displayed by the Military Mom’s Prayer Group, represented donations to the Heritage Center made in honor of a loved one’s past or present service in the armed forces.  The group also handed out pre-addressed boxes for guests to take home, fill up with goodies, and ship to the troops as a little remembrance of home.

Funds raised by the event benefit Vero Heritage Inc., which operates the Heritage Center, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its attached Citrus Museum. {igallery 345}

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