By PHYLLIS HODGES
A poignant Veterans Day Ceremony at the Sun City Center Community Association Hall was well attended. That’s understandable since about 100,000 of Florida’s 1.5 million veterans live in Hillsborough County, with a substantial number in the South Shore area.
For well over three decades, on the 11th day of the 11th month, this community has gathered to commemorate the day in 1918 when World War I ended. (Until 1954, Veterans Day was called Armistice Day; Dwight Eisenhower changed it in 1954 to honor service members of all America’s wars.)
Although the 2023 Veterans Day Ceremony was sponsored by the military veterans organizations of Greater Sun City Center, American Legion Post 246 took the lead. Commander Paul Wheat, Lt. Col. (Ret.), served as master of ceremonies. In Wheat’s introduction of guests, he recognized the Daughters of the American Revolution, Col. George Mercer Brooke SCC Chapter (on hand serving refreshments furnished by Freedom Plaza and Sun Towers) for hanging the flags along SR674 all major patriotic holidays. He also acknowledged Bill Hodges’ Veterans Corner Radio podcast, which just passed the 60,000-download milestone.
U.S. Navy Veteran Dr. Michelle Halcomb was the ceremony’s Honored Speaker. She shared anecdotes from her experience as a military dentist, including two years aboard the USS Lexington, a training aircraft carrier home-ported in Pensacola. She passionately conveyed the message that our many freedoms were won by the sacrifices of veterans.
Legionnaire Janet Taylor, U.S. Navy Veteran, related a tribute to the Grand Marshal of the day, Mr. Walter Dowdy, a Korean War veteran and Buffalo Soldier. Mr. Dowdy, almost totally blind because of service injuries, lives in Aston Gardens with Roberta, his wife of 71 years.
Posting of Colors was by the Sumner High School JROTC. Lily Meyers sang the National Anthem and Trinity Baptist Church singers, directed by Rev. Jeffrey Sheffield, presented patriotic songs and a service tribute. TAPS was played by U.S. Air Force veteran Gary Mull.
A wreath, donated by the SCC Funeral Home, was placed at the SCC Veterans Memorial following the ceremony.
The memorial, located in front of the SCC Community Association Hall, 1910 Pebble Beach South, was dedicated in January 2019. Bricks engraved with veteran names as well as individuals and organizations honoring veterans are incorporated into the foundation. This is an ongoing project, and an order form for purchasing bricks can be found at the website of Sun City Center Charitable Foundation (charitablefoundationscc.org). For memorial information, contact Walt Cawein at 813-340-0533 or, preferably, at email@example.com/.