SEBASTIAN — The sun shone brightly and hot on Riverview Park during a solemn and heartfelt Memorial Day ceremony in honor of service men and women who have dedicated and in some cases, lost their lives, protecting and preserving the United States.
The day’s events also marked the unveiling of the new monument recognizing those who fought in the recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terror.
Frank Cutrone, board member of the Veterans Advisory Council and Gulf War Veteran, presented the monument, and said, “It feels overdue to us.”
After more than 12 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that first gave cause for troops to be deployed, a monument to commemorate those who have valiantly fought in the wars since, now stands among the rest of the veterans monuments in Memorial Park in Sebastian.
Cutrone thanked the City of Sebastian and all who supported his efforts to erect the monument. He then individually recognized attending veterans and active duty service men and women who have served in the wars the monument stands to recognize.
“This city does everything and anything they can do in support of the veteran’s community,” Cutrone said. The City proved Cutrone’s point by pulling out all the stops for Monday’s ceremony.
Flowers were in full bloom, miniature American Flags waved throughout the park, colorful wreaths were placed in honor of veterans, and most of the crowd was decked out in red, white, and blue.
“The message of today is ‘Spring,’” said Joe Crankshaw, the ceremony’s keynote speaker. He continued, “Why in the middle of this lovely time of flowers and birds and love, are we talking about death?”
Crankshaw, an Army veteran who served in the Korean War, and a career journalist, gave a brief history of Memorial Day to one of the largest crowds ever to grace the lawn of Riverview Park.
He spoke of the women who took to the battlefields during and after the Civil War to care for the wounded, and honor and bury the dead. No matter which side the soldiers fought for, the women decorated graves with spring flowers, recognizing the ultimate debt paid.
The women he said, honored the fallen soldiers in recognition that that they “mattered to someone, and therefore [the soldiers] mattered to them.”
As the unofficial “Decoration Day,” morphed into the annual holiday known today as “Memorial Day,” the purpose remained the same.
“This day began the healing of our country,” Crankshaw said. But, he added, as long as there are wars to be fought, healing is never complete. He charged the crowd to do more than just remember and recognize veterans and service men and women one day a year, but to honor them for their sacrifice unceasingly, and to help protect on the home front, the country for which they fought.
“We owe it to those men and women who gave their lives, something more,” Crankshaw said. He left the crowd with a final calling, to “recognize all service men and women as children of God, and to preserve that which the fell for.”