VERO BEACH — A crowd of more than 1,200 people poured over the bridge to the Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary to pay tribute to the memories of fallen veterans at the Vero Beach Memorial Day Ceremony.
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 which is cared for by residents of Vero Beach, Sebastian, Fellsmere and Indian River County. The Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary Committee, currently chaired by Alma Lee Loy, oversees the Island in cooperation with the Veteran’s Council of Indian River County.
Col. Martin Zickert, USAF (Ret.), a 30-year Air Force veteran, introduced the distinguished guests in attendance, and read from General Order No. 11, which indicates, “The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land.”
Following the invocation by Capt. Richard Flick, USN (Ret.), the flag-waving crowd, joined in as the Vero Beach High School Band, led by James Sammons, played the National Anthem and a selection of patriotic songs.
Zickert asked all those who had served in the armed forces from World War II to the present conflicts to stand and be recognized for their service.
“We thank veterans and remember those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. There are thousands still in harm’s way fighting for our freedom,” said Zikert.
He paid tribute to the families of service men and women, including members of the Military Moms Prayer Group in attendance, and noted that his own son is a 20-year veteran of the Corps, who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In an always poignant moment, US Army Sergeants Delgado and Nadeau were led by Piper Michael Hyde, USMM to the memorial marker for Ronald Scott Owens, for the Placing of the Wreath. Owens died while serving as an Electronics Warfare Technician on the USS Cole.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Peter Petersen, Col. USA (Ret.), related stories of his service during the Vietnam War and reactions of protesters upon his return to the United States. Peterson served in the Special Forces, and later commanded the 3rd Battalion in the Mekong Delta. He spent 26 years in the military before retiring as a colonel in 1979 and joining the faculty of Johns Hopkins.
“I had a close friend who was killed in action in Vietnam,” said Petersen. “The 50th anniversary of his death is coming up. Imagine all he has missed.”
Parade Marshall Col. Anthony “Tony” Young, USA (Ret.) has taken on an additional task of remembrance in his role as president of the Indian River County Genealogical Society. He is joining forces with the Island’s Sanctuary committee to research and record the stories behind the 73 names of the servicemen whose names are noted on the Memorial Island markers.
“I’m a hometown boy,” said Young, whose uncle A.W. Young was Vero’s first mayor. “We’re just getting started on it as a civic project. We want to chronicle and share the heroics of these people; that’s what the Island is all about.”
He is requesting the public’s help in gathering the data. If you have information about any of the 73 honorees, contact Young by email at email@example.com or call (772) 321-2692.