Manatee Village Historical Park salutes heritage of our armed forces

vmannix@bradenton.comMarch 14, 2014 

BRADENTON -- A tree planting that harkens back to the American Revolution. One veteran's story of how a service dog impacted his life.

Manatee County artifacts of life during World War II.

They are all facets of "Stories of Valor: A Salute to Heroes," which will be part of Saturday's traditional Heritage Days Open House at the Manatee Village Historical Park.

Hosted by the Manatee County Historical Commission in conjunction with the Patterson Foundation's Legacy of Valor campaign, the program will also portray life as it was in early Southwest Florida with special focus on a heritage of freedom and patriotism inspired by veterans.

Bill Howard, Manatee County Historical Commission chairman, looks forward to the celebration.

"It affords an opportunity to honor, with gratitude, the service and sacrifice of our nation's veterans, both past and present," he said. "This is a privilege we proudly and humbly embrace."

Patriotic entertainment by Rowlett Elementary School's drumline, the Scott Blum and Friends band, vocalist Sharon Ruckle and organ grinder Ron Bopp will perform during Saturday's program, which includes:

• At 11:30 a.m., the Saramana Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution will dedicate a Liberty Tree, an elm tree like one that stood near Boston Common before the Revolution and was a rallying point for growing resistance to British rule. Many American towns soon had their own Liberty Tree.

• At 1 p.m., veteran Paul Utter will share how his veteran service dog, Ellie, from Southeastern Guide Dogs' Paws for Patriots Program, changed his life. Volunteers from the organization will tell more about its history, its impact and how the public can get involved.

• From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Devotion to Duty exhibit will display uniforms, letters, war posters and other memorabilia reflective of veterans and their families, giving visitors a better understanding of what the home front was like during World War II.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter:@vinmannix

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