A Day to Honor Our Veterans

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Mayor Samuels and dignitaries surround the Veterans Memorial.

A day to remember and honor our veterans did not go unnoticed in St Augustine Beach. Over 100 citizens and veterans alike, turned out to celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th at the Veterans Memorial at Lakeside Park.

The weather was perfect for the celebration and the event started with an entrance lead by the honorary bagpipers from The Clay County Sheriff’s Office Pipes and Drums Corp as well as an honor guard of representatives from the police and sheriff departments.

Following the distinguished entrance was a tribute for Capt. Robert Beskind. Beskind was one of the founding members of the Veterans Memorial that now sits in Lakeside Park. The memorial was constructed to honor all branches of the military. Unfortunately Beskind died before the memorial was finished.

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Police Chief Hardwick speaks to the crowd

Lt. Col. William Dudley of the US Air Force was on hand to address the crowd. He spoke about the challenges our veterans have with adjusting to life after their tour is over and the trials they experience as they transition back into family life as well as the community.

Our own St Augustine Beach Police of Chief, Robert Hardwick spoke about his years in the National Guard and the impact the service has had on his life. He also spoke of the benefits of serving in the military, including the educational benefits.

Finally Col. Lisa Craig of the Florida National Guard also spoke about the challenges our veterans face as they move back into the community. She noted the sacrifices not only our veterans make, but  the sacrifices their families make by having such an integral part of the family away and in harm’s way.

Along with our civil servants, every branch of military was represented at the celebration including vets from WW 2, Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm and Afghanistan. Some were in uniform and some were just wearing a reminder on their sleeve.

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Mary Ann Morales, Andrea Irizarry, Karina and sister Ariana celebrate our veterans.

U.S. Navy Veterans, Mary Ann Morales and Andrea Irizarry, both from Puerto Rico attended the celebration with their families. They had read about the celebration online and drove down from Jacksonville. “We thought it was important to let the vets know that people still care.” said Morales.

“We believe it is important to keep up the tradition of military pride.” said Irizarry. “It serves as a motivation for the young people who may be thinking of joining.” she continued.

Morales spent nine years in the US Navy and Irizarry was in for twelve years. They both understood the strain their deployment has on their families. “We did so much away from our family.” said Morales.

Even ten year old Ariana and twelve year old Karina remember having their mom gone. “I remember I cried,” said Ariana. “I missed her.”

“One way to keep the memories alive is to listen to stories about when she was gone.” said Karina.

The afternoon came to a close with a benediction by Rabbi Raskind. A free dinner was served, complements of Salt Life Food Shack, Sunset Grill and Panama Hatties Restaurant.

On Veterans Day, as the children ran free climbing the trees in the park, we understood why all the sacrifices had to be made. It is important to honor and thank our veterans. They will be the first to tell you…freedom is not free.