OLDSMAR — The sky turned black and the rain poured down. The public address system shorted out. But they read the names of the fallen anyway.
Torrential rains nearly drowned out a Fallen Soldiers Remembrance Ceremony in Oldsmar over the weekend. They did an abbreviated version of the ceremony, skipping some planned aerial displays such as a jump by the Special Operations Command parachute team as well as a flyover by planes in "missing man" formation.
Gov. Rick Scott, who spoke briefly at Saturday's event, told the crowd that he would come back for a rescheduled ceremony. The event's organizer, the mother of a slain U.S. soldier, wants to hold another ceremony sometime this fall.
"It was a condensed version. At least no one got sunburned or sick from heat exhaustion," said Toni Gross, the mother of U.S. Army Cpl. Frank Gross, a soldier from Oldsmar who died in Afghanistan last year.
"What was done was the essence of why we were all there — to honor the fallen, to honor Gold Star families, and to show respect for our active-duty soldiers," she said. "All of those goals were achieved."
Roughly 200 people attended, including at least 30 local Gold Star families — those whose children were killed in war. The ceremony was dedicated to the family of Staff Sgt. Matthew Steven Sitton, a 26-year-old from Largo who was recently killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
After the governor and military officials spoke, it was still raining hard. Though Boy Scouts and Patriot Guard Riders were there to read aloud the names of American soldiers, sailors and Marines killed in the last six months, there was talk of canceling that and the rest of the event.
Then John Ruckart, scoutmaster of Oldsmar's Boy Scout Troop 64, approached the podium.
"He said, 'You know what, we need to read the names of the fallen,' " Gross recalled.
By that time, the PA system was on the fritz due to the heavy rain.
"Ruckart saved the day. He had a megaphone in his car," Gross said.
So they used that instead and read the names.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.