Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day to remember the more than one million men and women who died in service to their country since the Civil War began in 1861 and Plant City residents took time to recognize its hometown heroes.
The ceremony, held at American Legion Post 26, was a solemn event as members of the community paid tribute to those who offered the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Guest speaker Eunice Butts, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War era as well as in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and the Alabama National Guard and is the first African-American woman to move through leadership ranks to become the elected Commander for The American Legion, Department of Florida, shared remarks about God, family, military service and courage. “It takes courage to make it through this world, it takes prayer and courage,” she said.
She encouraged audience members to reflect on who made the chance to live and thrive in this country possible. “The freedoms we enjoy is all on the back of the lives of those soldiers who shed their blood and died for us and also those who made it back home,” she said. “All of our brothers and sisters, we want everyone to know the sacrifices that were made for freedom.”
After her speech, the names of dozens of local veterans who passed away this year were read aloud and after a moment of silence, the list was burned while the sound of “Taps” rang out in the air followed by a 21-gun salute.
Mayor Nate Kilton was reflective as the names were read. “In one aspect it’s sad because there’ve been so many lives that have gone on but it’s very encouraging that there are so many in our community that are serving,” he said.
Kilton is also thankful for the families that stand behind their soldiers. “It’s not just those that are serving, it’s their families too that are making sacrifices,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re honored too.”
Post 26 Commander Carl Brosky also reflected on the sheer number of names that were read during roll call and considered it a statement about Plant City’s patriotic spirit. “I think it shows the number of people in our community that have served, how many veterans there are in this community,” he said. “Plant City has a lot of veterans and a large number of citizens that supports them.”
Resident and ardent veteran supporter Judy Wise was happy with the event turnout. “It’s just something we all need to do,” said Wise. “We need to stop and realize that freedom is not free and there’s a whole lot of men and women who have paid the ultimate price for this country.”
During the benediction, Post Chaplain Daniel Middlebrooks’ words echoed through the hall. “Bless those that breathe the very air of freedom and may the fire of our devotion light the way of those that come after us,” he prayed.