NEW PORT RICHEY — About two months ago, Susan Jones began digging up anything and everything she could find that belonged to her father, John T. Gause — old pictures, Army records and his German dog tag from World War II.
Jones, 60, who said she lost her father to bone cancer when she was 16 years old, said she felt honored that he had been chosen to be recognized Monday on Memorial Day. But she also felt the recognition was long overdue.
"I felt like my dad never complained about the military when he came back, even though he suffered quite a bit," Jones said.
Veterans of wars past and present were very much on the minds of Pasco and Hernando county residents who turned out Monday for several Memorial Day remembrances.
Gause, who was honored at a service at West Elfers Cemetery in New Port Richey, had been a prisoner for about two years during WWII in Hammerstein, Germany. The camp was finally liberated in 1945.
For the past fours years, the West Elfers Cemetery Preservation Association has honored veterans on Memorial Day whose resting place is in the cemetery. The association also chooses a soldier to commemorate by putting a wreath on his grave.
Jones was there with members of her family and about 160 other people who turned out to listen to speeches by local dignitaries, including state Sen. Mike Fasano, R- New Port Richey.
"The most important thing about this day is that we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can live in the greatest country of the world, the United States of America," Fasano said.
In Hernando County, about 200 residents of the High Point community gathered for their community's annual Memorial Day program, which included a rifle salute and the presentation of colors by American Legion Post 186 and the High Point Fire Department.
Visitors were greeted by Dee Whaley, who heads up a group of High Point residents that for the past four years has been sending 10 care boxes a week to soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The effort has been supported by a $150 monthly gift from the High Point Social Club. Whaley has been trying to find additional funds from the community to cover the cost of postage. At her booth was a plastic jar for donations. Whaley's group ships socks, breakfast food, coffee bags, coffee creamer, greeting cards, reading materials and small treats to soldiers overseas.
"It's just a nice little something our community does," Whaley said. "They're out there doing a hard job for all of us. So we need to do whatever we can to support them."
Jacqueline Baylon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 869-6247. Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or email@example.com.