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In Hernando County, Veterans Day was a day of tributes and recognition

SPRING HILL — William "Bill" Davis could not think of any reason not to enlist in the Navy in 1943.

Not the possibility of danger. His mere 18 years of age. Or even the fact that he was not actually a U.S. citizen.

A native of Ireland in the United States on a student visa, Davis signed up and served 18 months as a hospital corpsman in the Pacific Ocean in the midst of World War II — a post that took him to New Caledonia, New Guinea, the Philippines and elsewhere.

"You can't keep an Irishman from a good fight," Davis, now 89, said with a grin.

Davis was one of 19 veterans honored Monday morning during a brief Veterans Day ceremony at the Salishan retirement community in Spring Hill, where they all reside.

The veterans, who received pins and certificates of appreciation, included 17 veterans who served during WWII, one who served in Vietnam and one who served during the Cuban missile crisis.

With many using canes or walkers and fighting to stand, each of the veterans stood to be honored for their service. They accepted the honors and posed in front of the American flag for a quick photograph.

Martha P. Morris, 89, was the lone woman.

Serving as a teletypist with the Navy from 1944 to 1945, Morris relayed coded messages from her station at a naval base in California.

"I worked around the clock sending coded messages from the ships to Washington, D.C.," she said. "It was strenuous. It had to be exact — you can't make a mistake sending those kinds of messages."

Walter L. Saccoccia, 86, enlisted in the Navy at age 17 in 1944. He served on the Yorktown aircraft carrier. He helped pick up soldiers across the Pacific to bring them home after the war ended.

"That was an experience," he said. "Every trip we made … everything was blown out. At that time, they said there were Japanese in the hills that didn't know the war was over."

Sherry Whitford, a volunteer with HPH Hospice, the organization that hosted the service, said it is crucial to honor all veterans.

"You will never be forgotten," Whitford told the gathering.

The ceremony at Salishan was one of several ways Hernando marked Veterans Day.

Joe Cuce, the owner of the Jersey Cafe at Cortez and Mariner boulevards, also felt it was important to honor veterans, and he did it with free meals.

For the first time, Cuce invited all active and retired military personnel and their spouses to come in and dine for free.

"You have to give from the heart, not the bottom line," he said.

He believes other restaurants should follow suit.

"I can't afford to do this, but I still do it because this community has given me a living for 30 years," he said.

The restaurant was hopping Monday morning with hungry veterans.

Kim's Trims on Deltona Boulevard in Spring Hill offered free haircuts for veterans on Monday.

Residents of High Point gathered for a tribute to veterans at the High Point Community Center.

The Florida National Cemetery Joint Veterans Committee hosted several hundred veterans and their families for the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Florida National Cemetery, near Bushnell.

The annual Veterans Appreciation Parade took place Saturday morning in downtown Brooksville.

Contact Danny Valentine at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

In Hernando County, Veterans Day was a day of tributes and recognition 11/12/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 10:52am]
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