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Dunedin ceremony honors Purple Heart recipients for their service

DUNEDIN — The day World War II veteran Lou Greber was wounded still gives him nightmares.

It was Jan. 13, 1945. The Army aviation engineer's ship was part of a large convoy about 30 or 40 miles off the island of Corregidor, in the southwest Pacific.

Suddenly, a kamikaze bomber rocked the boat so hard that Greber says he was knocked out of his boots. More than 100 men died; several of their bodies were left unidentifiable.

Greber was among the severely wounded. He received a Purple Heart for his service.

"I served my country and I'm proud of it," said Palm Harbor resident Greber, now 89 and commander of the JFK Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. "As a soldier and as a wounded soldier, we like recognition every once in a while."

He got his wish Friday morning, as about 50 people gathered in Dunedin's Purple Heart Park to pay tribute to the scores of men and women who have been wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers read a proclamation declaring Sunday as Purple Heart Day. "Thank you for your sacrifice," he said.

Attendees stood silently as a color guard fired off a 21-gun salute. A lone trumpeter played taps, followed by a bagpiper, who played Amazing Grace.

JFK Post 1963 vice commander Alfred Lentz added two tribute bricks to a park memorial built in honor of combat-wounded veterans.

Lentz, too, is a Purple Heart recipient, after a booby trap injured his right foot and a separate incident in which a rocket blast sent shrapnel slicing into his left knee in the late 1960s.

He shuns being called a hero.

"I'm just an ordinary Joe. It was part of my job," said Lentz, 73, a Vietnam veteran. "The heroes are the ones that died over there."

During the ceremony, Scott Daniels of Clearwater clutched the rectangular gold-embroidered black case holding the Purple Heart of his late father, Robert Daniels, a World War II veteran.

Scott Daniels attends the city's Purple Heart ceremony each year, and said his family visits the park each patriotic holiday to see the brick dedicated to his father.

He's pushing for a special committee to start planning an even bigger and better event for the tribute ceremony's fifth anniversary next year.

After all, said Daniels, the park showcases not only Dunedin — which was designated as the country's first Purple Heart City by the national Military Order of the Purple Heart in 2006 — but also the entire region.

"Too often people forget," said Daniels, 60. "To be able to have that connection with this history and also with (my father's) legacy is wonderful."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Dunedin ceremony honors Purple Heart recipients for their service 08/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 7:20pm]
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