WINTER PARK – As the VFW Post 2093 Community Band performed a musical salute to the Armed Forces, members of the different branches who were in the audience – the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force – stood up to be recognized.
With a huge, overflow crowd attending the annual Memorial Day Service at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Winter Park, recognizing, honoring and paying tribute to those veterans was, the audience frequently was reminded, the true meaning of a holiday like Memorial Day.
‘’We come here today to honor the courage, dedication and sacrifice of the young men and women who loved this country so much, they were willing to give their lives to defend it,” said Sally Kopke, the community outreach director for the Baldwin-Fairchild Cemeteries, Funeral Homes and Crematory, which oversees the park.
Kopke, the master of ceremonies for the annual event, pointed to the many veterans in the audience – those who served in wars long past, and those recently returned from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq – young and old, men and women, all committed to defending this nation and the freedoms it cherishes.
‘’These Americans responded to the call to duty in defending this great nation and all it represents,’’ Kopke said.
Their sacrifice, said Chaplain Doug Ward, should be a reminder to all Americans of the role that armed service members play in protecting the nation.
‘’May we never forget the price of freedom,’’ Ward said.
Although Memorial Day is viewed by many as a holiday, or the start of the summer vacation season, the ceremony at Glen Haven Memorial Park was a reminder that the holiday was set aside for a stronger purpose, to reflect on te sacrifices made by those who defend us.
‘’Memorial Day is not a day of sorrow, but rather a day to reflect,’’ Kopke said. ‘’We are honored to have today many veterans who served in those wars. Will those veterans please stand so we can honor them for their service.’’
They did, as the family members and friends in the audience provided a strong applause, a reminder that they were not being forgotten.
Captain Tae Shin, attack officer for the Florida Army National Guard’s Officer Candidate School, and the guest speaker at the remembrance ceremony, said he, too, felt the surge of emotion as he looked out at the audience that had shown up to remember the men and women he has served with.
‘’I am humbled to stand here today as we pay tribute to and honor the ultimate sacrifice,’’ he said.
By attending a ceremony like this, the people in the crowd were showing appreciation to ‘’those who have sworn to defend our great country against tyranny and oppression. We often times take our liberty and rights for granted, but today we should reflect on the fact that we can take our liberty and rights for granted because of the heroism and bravery of our warriors on the front line. I ask you all to remember and honor the debt of our armed services heroes. The best we can do is to preserve and honor the memories of our heroes who have fallen in battle.’’
Shin noted that some people very special to him were in the audience.
‘’My sons are here today to hear me speak of the memories of our fallen heroes,’’ he said. ‘’It is my hope that one day my sons and your sons will, by appreciating the sacrifice of our armed services members, serve in the armed forces themselves to continue to defend our freedoms.’’
The ceremony also featured the Presentation of Colors by the Joint Services Color Guard, a POW-MIA tribute by the POW-MIA Honor Guard, and a Civil War Tribute by the Florida State Reenactment Society.
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