Thousands of people waving American flags lined the streets of downtown Palmetto Friday to pay tribute to America’s veterans.
Justin Sietsma, an Iraq war veteran summed up his attendance: “It’s Veterans Day. Enough said. Having been in the military myself, I’m humbled to see everyone who came out today and support veterans. It gives me hope because seeing this kind of patriotism at home is what I fought for.”
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, a veteran himself, quoted the 30th President of the United States Calvin Coolidge during services following the annual Veterans Day Parade.
“A nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten,” Buchanan said. “I couldn’t agree more. This nation owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to its veterans who have put it all on the line to protect our freedoms and way of life. These heroes have left their families, friends and sacrifice comfort, time and money to our country. And many of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.”
Buchanan champions veterans’ causes in the nation’s capital and was key in reviving the G.I. bill, which provides funding for higher education to veterans.
I spend every day in Congress fighting to ensure our nation’s veterans will receive the health care they’ve earned ... I got their back.
Congressman Vern Buchanan
“I’m extremely proud to represent a district with one of the highest number of veterans,” he said. “There are nearly 70,000 veterans in this district, 1.9 million in Florida and 20 million in our country. I spend every day in Congress fighting to ensure our nation’s veterans will receive the health care they’ve earned ... I got their back.”
Diane Teeling sat in her chair along the parade route, wearing a “USA” shirt and holding a small American flag. Teeling was the wife of a veteran, a daughter of a veteran and now a mother of a veteran.
“I’m just here to show my support,” said Teeling. “I’m glad to see so many others have come to do the same, because we need to show veterans our support and be proud of where we live. I have a lot of veterans in my family. It’s in our blood.”
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant read a proclamation dedicated to the millions of veterans who, “by their service have kept America strong and protect our way of life from tyranny’s grip. We pause to reflect on the sacrifices of all those who served in the military armed forces of the United States.”
They have a small taste of what Americanism is all about, so remember that even when our government is at its worse, we are still the best country in the world.
Retired Air Force Command Sgt. Carl Hunsinger
Air Force veteran Command Chief Master Sgt. Carl Hunsinger delivered the keynote address. Hunsinger not only served in Iraq in combat operations, but in his 31 years of service served during a time when Germany was split by the Berlin Wall. Hunsinger talked about what Americanism really is, and dismissed the official definition as “a lot more than just a word, and all who have served look at our flag knowing that Americanism is so much more than a definition.”
Hunsinger said those under the thumb of oppression see America as a sign of hope, a representation of freedom and power.
“These people see Americans as rock stars,” he said. “They see Americans and they see hope. They have a small taste of what Americanism is all about, so remember that even when our government is at its worse, we are still the best country in the world.”
The Manatee County Veterans Council sponsors the annual parade and recognizes veterans and civilians alike who devote time and effort to veteran causes. Retired Col. Gill Ruderman was named the Fred Graves Veteran of the Year Award recipient. Sharon Spry was named Auxiliary member of the year award, and Turning Points Executive Director Adell Erozier was the civilian of the year award.