Remember the dead, but honor them by helping the living.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9226 in Ellenton did both Monday, holding a somber Memorial Day ceremony at a nearby cemetery, then hosting a cookout for local veterans and making plans to help those in need.
“(Monday) for us is honoring the dead by serving the living,” said Angela Silva, district president of the VFW’s Ladies Auxiliary. “By taking care of our veterans and active soldiers, we honor those who served before.”
More than 100 people attended the 10 a.m. ceremony at Mansion Memorial Park, where VFW members had planted more than 1,500 American flags at veterans’ grave sites. Five other veterans organizations and the Lakewood Ranch High School ROTC color guard also participated in the event, which featured the traditional 21-gun salute.
Attendees then crossed Ellenton-Gillette Road to munch on hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, deviled eggs and cake at the VFW post’s annual holiday cookout.
Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan attended the cookout, said Kevin Tracy, senior vice president of the VFW post’s men’s auxiliary.
The event also was a fundraiser, as the post is looking for new, larger quarters.
The post’s home of more than 30 years is too small for its 560 members, said Paul Cormier, senior vice commander and a U.S. Army veteran of Vietnam. But the post has not yet found a suitable site in the Ellenton area, he said.
“I would love to have a new post in a year,” he said.
The post also hopes to raise money to buy hardwood flooring for a local Korean veteran who lost most of his fingers in a combat-related explosion, Silva said.
The veteran’s home has floor tiles that are rising and making popping noises that sound like gunfire and is triggering flashbacks, she said.
“He’s trying to pull the tiles out with just two fingers,” said Silva, whose father served in the U.S. Air Force. “It’s so sad. It shouldn’t be that way. This man served his country.”
So the post’s members plan to tear out the tile June 27, but don’t have any flooring to replace it with. Silva said anyone interested in donating can call the post at 729-8535.