ST. PETERSBURG — Vietnam veteran Kenneth Brown of Largo came for the fallen comrade who he never got to know.
Air Force veteran Tina Crisp of St. Petersburg came for her late husband, Air Force Master Sgt. David Crisp.
And Bay Pines emergency medical technician and Navy veteran Scott Keith came for his 7-month-old daughter — so that she may never have to be in a war.
All three stood in a shaded grove at Bay Pines VA Medical Center for a poignant Veterans Day salute this morning.
Hundreds of veterans representing each military order and each major war gathered to hear local elected officials and military leaders reflect on their service and discuss the current state of affairs at area bases.
First proclaimed as Armistice Day in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson, the commemoration became a federal holiday in 1938 and was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
For Brown, 61, Nov. 11 is always a day of remembrance for a fallen soldier in his attachment who he barely knew. The man was taken prisoner and never was found.
"It still goes on," Brown said of war. "It always will, I guess. … Just as long as it doesn't come home."
Tears welling in her eyes, Crisp, 74, who served as an Air Force radar technician, said she began volunteering with the Veteran's Liaison Council of Pinellas County shortly after her husband, Dave, also a veteran, died of lung cancer nine years ago.
With two sons and two brothers in the military, Crisp said she was honoring her family by becoming part of Veterans Day.
"It changed my life," Crisp said of the military. "I was Mexican-American with no education, and they took me in."
Keith, 37, a Navy veteran of the first Gulf War, bounced his infant daughter Sophia in his arms during the formation of assembly. The child giggled and clapped her hands.
"This one's going to college," he said of the girl.
At 11:15, a color guard fired three rounds into the cool November air as a bugler played taps. The Dixie Hollins High School ROTC then fired a single round from a replica Civil War era cannon into Boca Ciega Bay.