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Military family, Rotary clubs organize salute for Vietnam veterans

Darrell Painter has 150 years of military service in her family, including her father, her brother, her husband, her son, her daughter and a granddaughter currently enrolled at West Point.

So she jumped at the chance to plan a salute for Vietnam veterans as part of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the war.

Painter's work came to fruition on Friday morning when more than 50 Vietnam veterans attended a commemorative breakfast at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church. Dignitaries came to salute the group, including Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who presented many of the vets with a commemorative pin.

Castor went through the line, shaking the hand of each veteran and telling them if they didn't receive the welcome they deserved back then they're receiving it now. The group included former Hillsborough County Commissioner Chris Hart, Brandon CPA Vince Ferraro, Tampa-Hillsborough Community Development Corporation director Noble Sisle, Jr. and former Armwood High teacher Bruce Burnham.

Each pin was engraved with the words: "A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You."

Painter could only beam.

"It was so emotional," Painter said. "You hear about the greatest generation. This is the greatest generation."

Retired Lt. Gen. Don Lionetti delivered the keynote address, speaking poignantly about how the depiction of the conflict deserves a more accurate portrayal that speaks to the successes the American military enjoyed.

Painter's daughter, retired Lt. Col. Deidre P. Dixon, served as the emcee. Volunteers feted the attendees with a breakfast that included chipped beef on toast, a military staple.

Rotary Club Westshore Sunrise, along with other Rotary clubs, headed the list of sponsors.

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