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For veterans, a heartfelt salute

One by one, Jean Galinier snapped off a salute after each of the names of west Pasco veterans involved in the liberation of France in World War II was read off Sunday morning.

By the time it was done, Galinier, the Miami-based deputy consul general of France, had saluted nearly 400 times.

"We never forget the sacrifice of the Allied soldiers," Galinier told the more than 600 people who came to Sims Park on Sunday to observe Veterans Day. He was there to give "Thank You America" certificates to the men and women who took part in the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, and the offensive afterward that drove the Germans out of France.

For Anthony Vuolo, 75, who was 18 when he set foot in France as a combat engineer in Gen. George S. Patton's famed 3rd Army, the recognition was "nice to get."

Vuolo, who is active with his Veterans of Foreign Wars group in Spring Hill, said that beyond the French government, regular people have been more interested in honoring veterans since the terrorist attacks two months ago Sunday. He said the VFW clubs have been getting more requests from schools to come talk about serving their country.

"People are paying more attention to veterans and their country," he said. "Normally, you wouldn't see a turnout like (the crowd Sunday). It feels good."

With America at war again, Sunday's Veterans Day ceremonies went back and forth between the history the World War II vets made and the history unfolding in Afghanistan.

U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Dunnellon, thanked "our French allies" for their help in the war on terrorism, but the echo of history was clear.

About American troops fighting overseas, Thurman said, "I know that they will make you and our entire country proud."

"We are once again a nation brought together by the common goals of freedom and liberty," she said.

But one veteran, Craig Valente, who served as a Marine in Vietnam in the late 1960s, questioned people who didn't come to the park Sunday to show their support of veterans. He said some attitudes have changed _ people would accept his service in Vietnam more today than in the past _ but the terrorist attacks two months ago didn't awaken enough people to the sacrifices people have made for their country. The crowd would have been larger if it had, he said.

"It made people put a lot of American flags up," Valente said. "But are they here today?"

Joshua Murphy and Paul Ocilka, both students at Ridgewood High School, were in their Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps honor guard Sunday. Both said they will go straight into the military after high school: Murphy, at 14, said he's already signed with the Marines, and Ocilka, at 15, said he'll join the Navy.

Both said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, they have felt more respect for veterans. And they feel more respect from veterans, because as Ocilka put it, "we're the future of the military."

"We have more respect for them now that we know what they've done," Murphy said. "And what they fought for."

_ Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waitesptimes.com

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