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Ceremony says thanks to heroes

(ran PC edition)

Charlie Reese began his comments at the Veterans Day ceremony Sunday saying how proud he is to see the large number of American flags flying since Sept. 11 of this year.

"We are a different world than we were before," he said as he greeted the audience at the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home.

More than 100 residents, families and friends attended the 11 a.m. outdoor ceremony held at the facility that provides a home for veterans of several wars.

Reese served as master of ceremony for the hourlong event.

"We thank you veterans of the armed services who served our country," Reese said.

The home is named after Baldomero Lopez, a young first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. The Tampa native died in 1950 during the Korean War. He received the medal for giving his life for his men by falling on a live grenade.

"He sacrificed his life so others could live," Reese said.

During the ceremony, Father Ron Aubin, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Land O'Lakes, gave the invocation from the sixth chapter of Ephesians, where it says to put on the whole armor of God.

He talked about the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit, and the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the evil one.

"Since we last met, we have tasted the fruits of hate," he said.

He prayed that God would give strength to live as free men and women, and that God would defend and protect those who are serving their country in Afghanistan.

"We also give thanks to those brave veterans of the past who have served their country," he prayed.

Medals were distributed to 39 veterans who entered the nursing home during the past year, and the names of 41 veterans were read who had died during the past year while living at the home.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Draude presented the veterans with their medals after speaking to them.

"I saw your faces in World War II," Draude said. "As a boy growing up in Illinois, you were my heroes. Thank you for your sacrifices and your example."

Draude, who lives in the area, talked about Lopez and how he gave him inspiration to continue on while attending college and through his Marine Corps training.

"I would see his picture and citation and it would keep me going," Draude said.

He ended his speech by asking God to bless the United States.

"And God bless you," he said to the veterans.

John Silva, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force and is an artist who has painted portraits of 16 of the Medal of Honor recipients, presented the nursing home with a copy of the one he painted of Lopez.

"You are the heroes," he said to the veterans present.

Louis Smith, who served in Vietnam, agreed.

"You are God's champions and heroes," Smith said.

The ceremony ended with Tim McGuigan singing God Bless America.

"I loved it when everyone joined in," he said afterward.

_ Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 909-4612. Her e-mail address is