Community lauds American veterans as heroes
“Imagine being born in another country and not having a choice of religion. What would you do if you were forced to believe things you knew weren’t true? If you had to choose between a dictatorship where everything is chosen for you or a country where you have the freedom of press, freedom of speech and, most important, freedom of religion.”
So wrote Zack Leonardi, a seventh grader at The Sanibel School, in his essay entitled “What America Means To Me.” Leonardi read his essay before a crowd of more than 100 patriotic islanders last Thursday morning at City Hall during a 60-minute ceremony recognizing Veterans Day and the contributions made by those enlisted in the armed forces — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — in defense of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“America is a free country like it is today because of all of our patriotic and brave veterans who served in the United States armed services,” Leonardi added. “To me, a veteran is anyone who has served in our country’s military. I am proud to be an American.”
The ceremony, emceed by Joe Smaha, began with the presentation of the American flag by members of the Sanibel Police Department Color Guard, the Sanibel Community Band’s performance of the national anthem, an invocation by Father Christopher Senk of St. Isabel Catholic Church, the “Pledge of Allegiance” and an introduction from Mayor Kevin Ruane.
“On this Veterans Day, let us thank God for the gift of freedom made possible by those who served our nation with honor, courage and commitment in our armed forces during all wars that enabled so many of them to earn that coveted title of an ‘American veteran,” said Ruane. “On behalf of the City Council and the City of Sanibel, it gives me great pleasure and honor to praise our current troops and all of the veterans for allowing us to enjoy our safety and freedom we take for granted every day.”
Sanibel resident and retired United States Navy Two-Star Rear Admiral Scott Logan delivered the keynote address. In addition to sharing some of his own observations about Veterans Day, he recited quotations by President John F. Kennedy and General Colin Powell.
“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers,” President Kennedy once said in recognition of Veterans Day.
“It is more than appropriate that we look upon our veterans as heroes for the work that they have done,” Logan added. “Today, we salute and thank all of our veterans.”
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day — later changed to Veterans Day, in 1938 — with the following words:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day continues to be observed on Nov. 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to Nov. 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: “A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
Following Logan’s remarks, Fred Nordstrom requested that his fellow members of the Sanibel Community Chorus, along with all in attendance, join him in singing several patriotic tunes. Accompanied by the Community Band, the crowd sang “Anchors Aweigh,” “The Marine’s Hymn,” “The Caissons Go Rolling Along,” “Semper Paratus (Always Ready),” “The Air Force Song” and, finally, “God Bless America.”
As in years past, the ceremony concluded with the playing of “Taps.”