PALMETT0 -- "Don't let them forget" might have been the theme of Manatee County's Veterans Day observance on Sunday.
Retired Lt. Gen. James H. Johnson called veterans "ordinary men and women who performed extraordinary service for America at home and abroad."
It is the veteran who ultimately ensures the survival of America's freedoms, he said.
"It is our veterans, not the politicians, who are the guardians of our individual rights," Johnson said, echoing a familiar refrain, freedom is not free.
Thomas G. "Skip" Hannon, a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War, was recognized Sunday as Manatee County's veteran of the year.
Hannon's fellow vets bestowed the honor based on his service to other vets, his long history with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Korean War Veterans Association, and more.
But he was also recognized for sharing the story of veterans with area school children.
Even when Hannon was in a bunker in Korea 60 years ago, it seemed most Americans wanted nothing more than to forget about that bitter and frustrating
war, he remembered.
"Other than our family members and our close friends, few knew of the sacrifices of those who fought there," Hannon said after accepting his award from Don Courtney, president of the Manatee County Veterans Council.
It is a great sacrifice that always has and always will be part of the profession of arms, Johnson said.
Vietnam vet Mike Bennett, recently elected Manatee County's supervisor of election, said Americans frequently confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day, or even the Fourth of July.
Veterans Day traces its origins to Armistice Day, the end of World War I -- "the war to end all wars."
Unfortunately, it did not work out that way, Bennett said, referring to the even more catastrophic World War II and seemingly unending series of wars and conflicts around the world.
"They all served and they all served so that we can go in peace today," Bennett said of U.S. veterans throughout history.
Lt. Col. Sharon Trepiccione served as parade marshal, riding in an open car with Linda Craig, who heads up Manasota Operation Troop Support, which supplies U.S. armed forces members in Afghanistan.
"We celebrate the men and women who protect not only our way of life, but our Constitution. We are here in the land of the free because of the brave," Trepiccione said.
Sunday's observance also saluted Susan Kardos, who received the auxiliary member of the year award.
Prior to Sunday's speeches, proclamations, and singing of patriotic songs, as well as some close harmonies of famous World War II-era songs, a parade made its way from the Manatee County Fairgrounds to Sutton Park.
Little children stood with their families, smiled and waved tiny flags along the parade route as Junior ROTC groups, a high school band, and veterans posts marched.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1