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Hundreds gather to celebrate Memorial Day in Manatee

MANATEE -- Hundreds gathered at Veterans Park this morning to honor past and present military service men and women.

Among those in attendance were outgoing Sen. Mike Bennett, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and several government officials from Manatee County, Bradenton and Palmetto.

Bennett and Buchanan each spoke about the importance of Memorial Day and honoring those who serve.

“It’s not just one day of the year,” Bennett told the crowd of 400. “It should be 365 days of the year.”

LCpl. Jessica McVay, of the Commandant Detachment 588 of the Marine Corps League, was the keynote speaker.

McVay discussed the often forgotten definitions of patriotism and freedom.

“They fought hard and gave all, just so we could have some,” she said.

McVay charged all those in attendance to possess and teach others the characteristics of respect, integrity and loyalty.

Wreaths were placed at the memorial representing the different military branches and other military organizations.

Marlene Edwards sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” “America” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

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