June 2, 2016 — Those left behind stood for those who have gone before us. Men, women, even a handful of children stood while the names of the veterans from Sun City Center who had passed away since last Memorial Day were solemnly, individually spoken aloud for the standing-room-only crowd in Veterans Theater at Kings Point on Monday morning.
While America may be changing, the annual Memorial Day ceremony is a vivid reminder that remembrance and honor remain, particularly for those who were willing to give their all for the safety and security of the United States of America and the world.
There were at least 167 names in all, many, but not all, from the World War II generation. Among them were eight women.
The theater silenced as the cadence by veteran Army drummer Harry Gilmore began, heralding the procession of program participants, led by this year’s Grand Marshall, Navy veteran Rev. Dr. Ken Barringer. The ceremony was opened by retired Army Lt. Col. Benny Blackshire. The theater fell silent again, the only sound being the clack of polished shoes marching and commands sharply spoken as the East Bay High School JROTC Color Guard presented the colors, chiefly among them the American Flag.
The honored speaker for the event was retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James L. Williams. Williams served the nation for more than 35 years, commanding Marines at every level, both in and out of combat. As much a leader as a representative of the best that America offers, Williams has served around the world, including Asia, Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East and in Africa. His decorations for service include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Afghanistan Service Medal, Iraq Service Medal, Korean Defense Medal, Expeditionary Service Medal, Select Reserve Service Medal and the National Defense Medal.
The general received a standing ovation for his talk that touched on the selflessness of veterans in all wars and conflicts since World War II, and of the support of all Americans. He spoke of commitment and of sacrifice. He also drew on his experience from serving around the world.
Williams is currently the chairman and CEO of Zenneck Power Company.
The Trinity Baptist Church Choir, under the direction of Air Force veteran Rev. James Feist, provided the musical interlude and the salute to the branches of the armed forces. Veterans from each branch in the crowd stood while their song was performed.
The Roll Call of Departed Comrades was read by Navy veteran Rosemary Clifton, retired Army Lt. Col. Julian Graham, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Gordon Basset, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Samuel Rorer, and retired Navy Cmdr. Ed Socha.
Socha is a Pearl Harbor Survivor.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Conniver introduced the honored guests; retired Air Force Lt. Col. Samuel Rorer, president of the Sun City Center chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, introduced the guests. The bell was tolled by Socha and Taps was played by Rev. Feist. The benediction was read by Army veteran Rev. Ed Schafer.
Boy Scout Troops 661 and 662 carried the ceremony’s flower arrangement from the theater to its place under a large U.S. Flag at half-staff in front of the building. The flower arrangement was provided by the Sun City Center Funeral Home.
Memorial Day originated in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War. In 1968, Congress declared that Memorial Day would fall on the last Monday in May. This year the day of remembrance also fell on its long-traditional date of May 30.