On Memorial Day, we pay homage to the men and women who have given their lives in military service to this country. The solemn ceremonies, gun salutes, crosses, wreaths and taps remind us of that ultimate sacrifice and of the contributions of all deceased military veterans.
It is most appropriate to pause today while the nation is at war. The violence in Iraq touched Pasco County with grief and anguish after the recent deaths of Spc. P.J. Miller, 23, of New Port Richey and Sgt. Marcus Mathes, 26, of Zephyrhills.
Today also is a time to think of the work of people like Ed Gorecki. The municipal employee and U.S. Air Force veteran made sure the 300 soldiers buried in Dade City Cemetery had American flags on their graves. Gorecki and cemetery caretaker Mariarose Kussler met five days ago and stuck the flags at the head of each grave.
It is a day to think of people like Fredrick Taylor, Tom Castriota and the other veterans who, last November, joined Elections Supervisor Brian Corley's program to inspire voter enrollment drives in Pasco's high schools. Five veterans shared their stories with students, and by the end of the day, 500 students had registered to vote or preregistered if they were not yet 18.
Corley's inspiration was his 88-year-old grandfather Otho E. Hays of New Port Richey, who, as a member of the U.S. Navy, survived the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. In the coming school year, Corley hopes to have veterans or their family members volunteering to speak at each of Pasco's public high schools.
There is a large pool from which to draw. More than 54,000 military veterans live in Pasco County. The Veterans Expressway begins just south of the Pasco-Hillsborough line, the county's Veterans Memorial Park is in Hudson, a Florida veterans nursing home is in Land O'Lakes and Veterans Elementary School is scheduled to open in August in Wesley Chapel. Predating it all was the marketing in the 1970s and early 1980s of a Seven Springs development to those who had served in the military: Veterans Village.
Still, despite the daily reminders around Pasco County, it is easy to take the veterans' contributions for granted as Memorial Day has morphed into an excuse for a three-day weekend, theme park vacation, shopping excursion, barbecue, beach trip, boating outing or other leisure activities.
Memorial Day is to honor our deceased military personnel. Take a few minutes today or take another opportunity — as did Gorecki, Kussler and Corley — to demonstrate civic pride and to remember the service of our veterans in some small way.