PLANT CITY One by one, about 20 youngsters came to the microphone to pay tribute to those who served in the Armed Forces.
Many of the students from Plant City area schools were children of veterans or had close relatives who served. Most had powerful words to say as they honored the military on Veterans Day.
“The men and women who serve risk everything and a lot of times they don’t come home,” Tomlin Middle School student Anyssa Castillo said. “Every story is tragic and every story is different but they all sacrificed themselves for us.”
The 28th annual Salute to Our Veterans featured youngsters delivering short speeches on “What Veterans Day Means to Me,” and patriotic songs and flag waving by students from Springhead Elementary School.
The 90-minute program included remarks by a few officials, including City Commissioner Billy Keel, who said of veterans, “we owe them so much. We owe them our liberty and we owe them our freedom and we owe them our way of life.”
The ceremony sponsored by Hopewell Funeral Home was at Veterans Memorial Park, which pays tribute to veterans year round, said Jennifer Closshey, who headed the committee that led to the park’s establishment in 2010 at Courier Field. Plans are in the works to expand the park at 703 N. Wheeler St., Closshey added.
The park served as an ideal venue for the Veterans Day program, she said.
A number of veterans attended Monday’s ceremony, including Leland Davis, an 87-year-old who served in the Army in World War II. The Plant City resident fought at the Battle of the Bulge and came home with the Bronze Star and two Purple Heart medals, his son Mike said.
Students who delivered speeches at the Veterans Day program and their schools included:
Jack Brosky, Karla Guerrero and James Timberlake, Walden Lake Elementary; Grace Harris and Corbin Trottier, Springhead Elementary; Kaylee Carr, Menna Abd-Elrahman and Dominic McCloy, Robinson Elementary; Elizabeth West and Elijah West, Lincoln Elementary Magnet; Kylie Clark and Alyssa Ream, Pinecrest Elementary; Anyssa Castillo, Kasen Van Fossen, Dylan Hershey and Taryn Storter, Tomlin Middle; Ezekiel Dorsaint and Kaleb Pedone, Marshall Middle; and Gresham Stephens, Bryson Keel and Arie Fry, Plant City High.
Copies of their speeches will be on display through November at Plant City Photo Archives and History Center, 106 S. Evers St.