Girl Scouts handed out programs and little flags in fine fall weather as guests arrived Sunday at Safety Harbor Marina Park. The flags waved through speeches, anthems and dedications in an outpouring of patriotism and gratitude for the service of veterans.
Hundreds gathered at the park to remember those who have served or given their lives for freedom and to dedicate the new Veterans Memorial Plaza to them. Veterans and family members sat under the new picnic shelters encircling the plaza with a flagpole at its center.
State and local officials including State Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, and numerous military and veterans groups participated.
Mayor Pam Corbino thanked former mayor Claude Rigsby for urging that the Marina Park project include a memorial for veterans. Rigsby stood beside her as she dedicated the memorial.
"As the mayor of the city of Safety Harbor, in the presence of so many brave and selfless citizens, it is my humbling privilege to dedicate this memorial park to the honor and memory of all of Safety Harbor's heroes and this country's true patriots." she said. "May the sacrifices of those whose names are inscribed here and of all those who served this nation be an inspiration to all who pass this way."
Corbino said that in addition to honoring the veterans whose names were inscribed in the granite stones or brick pavers, "we also mourn the recent victims in the struggle for liberty" and pray for the safety of those serving now.
"We place our faith in a future that will always see American heroes standing against the forces of darkness and hate and keeping this place a safe harbor of peace and freedom," she said.
Gus Bilirakis said young people need to know the sacrifices many people have made to defend them.
"It's so wonderful to see so many young people out here today," he said.
The MacDill Air Force Base firing squad gave a 21-gun salute and played taps before the ceremony ended. Then veterans and family members took one more look at the names inscribed on the plaza.
John Lamond of Safety Harbor and his family gathered at the brick inscribed with his name. The inscription was a surprise from his family. They said Lamond is a much-decorated veteran. He is a veteran of three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
He went behind enemy lines to scout and was taken prisoner in World War II. Twice he was shot. He said he fought in the last bayonet battle in U.S. history _ in Korea in 1951.
Lamond earned 25 medals including three bronze stars, two purple hearts and a Presidential Unit Citation, among others.
"We're proud of him, even though he doesn't like us to talk about him," said Lamond's daughter, Jody Stallo of Clearwater.
Lamond was pleased with the memorial.
"I think it's great that they are recognizing veterans in the manner that they did," he said. "I know that most of them feel the same way that I do _ that we're very proud of what they did."