One by one, they stood.
Thad Lowrey, who called their names, might have been among them had his big brother not been killed in the South Pacific during World War II. The military excluded the 74-year-old New Port Richey businessman from service because he was a "surviving son.''
When he finished reading, graying men braced against the tables in the Spartan Manor banquet hall accepted the applause and gratitude of those who remained sitting. Forty men with armed forces history, some with combat experience, held their heads high.
Such ceremonies will be repeated throughout the country on Friday as we celebrate Veterans Day, once again while troops fight overseas. The Rotary Club of New Port Richey, born a half-century ago and proud to include dozens of service vets, dedicated its weekly Wednesday meeting to the occasion.
With the urban sprawl that defines western Pasco, it's often easy to overlook the charming pockets of Small Town America. The Rotary Club, which just this month earned recognition as the county's philanthropic service organization of the year, goes beyond the call to preserve that spirit and honor those who make positive contributions.
On this day, they welcomed a military color guard and children from the Genesis School who led a chorus of America the Beautiful. They heard Sheriff Chris Nocco relate a lesson in leadership from Gen. Dwight Eisenhower who prepared this letter in case the Normandy invasion failed:
"Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.''
The Rotarians also heard retired Col. David E. Scales, introduced as a Korean and Vietnam war veteran and former deputy chief of staff at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. He winced when described a "hero.''
"I'm far from a hero,'' he said, "but I know a lot.''
In a five-minute talk, Scales worried that U.S. troop strength does not match the threats, particularly in the Middle East. The same soldiers are called on for all the fighting. Some are on their fourth or fifth tour of Iraq or Afghanistan.
"They're trained well and have the most modern equipment,'' he said. "There's just not enough of them. ... It's kind of scary to me, an old soldier.''
The colonel stopped short of offering a solution. This wasn't the forum to debate a draft or political decisions. It was a celebration, an acknowledgement that how ever it happens, service to one's country is important and appreciated.
If only it weren't necessary.