OLDSMAR — Toni Gross had originally figured it would be a small, private ceremony.
The mother of Cpl. Frank Gross, a soldier from Oldsmar who was killed in Afghanistan last year, she decided to organize a Fallen Soldiers Remembrance Ceremony where the names of the dead would be read aloud. She chose Aug. 18 at Veterans Memorial Park in Oldsmar.
Then, unexpectedly, Gov. Rick Scott agreed to speak at the ceremony. More and more people expressed interest in participating. The event kept growing and growing.
So on Tuesday night, the Oldsmar City Council voted unanimously to waive a $1,445 special event fee that Gross would have had to pay for security costs, equipment rental fees and insurance.
"We appreciate all that you're doing," Mayor Jim Ronecker told Gross. "I do believe that if done properly, this will be a wonderful event, and hopefully an annual event for the city."
No one really knows how many people will show up at the ceremony. It's a first-time event. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.
It will be similar to the quarterly Field Of Honor ceremonies that are held at Veterans Memorial Park on U.S. 301 in Tampa.
Speakers will include Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, U.S. Army Chaplain Mark Worrell, Oldsmar's mayor and others. Boy Scouts and Patriot Guard Riders will read aloud the names of American soldiers, sailors and Marines who have been killed in the last six months.
There will also be patriotic music; appearances by active-duty soldiers and possibly the Special Operations Command parachute team; and presentations for Gold Star families whose children were killed in war.
"People in Oldsmar have really reached out to us. We are blessed to live in this community," Gross said. "By having this ceremony, I want to give back to this community as well."
Appearing at the ceremony will be four soldiers who were with Cpl. Frank Gross on the day he died.
A 25-year-old Army gunner, he was killed by a roadside bomb in July 2011 in the Khost province of Afghanistan.
He had lived in Oldsmar since 1998.
Just last week, his longtime friend, Staff Sgt. Matthew Steven Sitton, died after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Sitton, a 26-year-old from Largo, attended Indian Rocks Christian High School with Frank Gross. They even played on the same baseball team.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.