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Honoring our veterans: City to hold ceremony Nov. 11

By Staff | Nov 5, 2014

Sanibel will honor its veterans Nov. 11 at City hall. CRAIG GARRETT

The city of Sanibel will honor its military veterans with a special program on Nov. 11. The event at City Hall commemorates Veterans Day, historically recognizing the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the official end of the first world war and honoring the service of veterans. Memorial Day in May recognizes military and civilian casualties, including the 37 million worldwide victims of the first world war. Millions more over the country’s history have died while serving, including some 420 a day over the four years of the Civil War.

Veterans Day also honors families of those who served with the armed forces. It is known as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other countries, as well. It is also a US holiday.

The island event is co-hosted by the Lee Coast Chapter of the Military Officers Association, and is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. The keynote is a former Vietnam POW, with remarks from Mayor Kevin Ruane, City Manager Judie Zimomra, concert bands and youth singers rounding out the ceremony. The MOAA chapter president, Fred Bondurant, will officiate. Bondurant is retired airline pilot who flew military transport in Vietnam.

Among those planning to join in the ceremony are John Boone and Billy Kirkland, local men who served with US forces in their respective timeframes; Boone in Korea, Kirkland in Vietnam.

Boone was wounded by shrapnel in the Korean Conflict in 1951, later working in military procurement as a civilian. He joined the US Marine Corps with forged papers at age 16 in the 1940s, activated at age 18 and ending up in Korea, he said. He was assigned to a reconnaissance unit sneaking behind enemy lines to pinpoint airstrikes, assess the damage and return, he said, work he enjoyed with his comrades, many of whom didn’t return stateside. In fact, Boone was one of three in his unit of 52 to survive Korea.

“I was scared from the time I got there to the time I left,” said Boone, an islander and direct descendant of Daniel Boone, the Kentucky frontiersman. “And I swore when I got home that I would never be afraid again. And I never was.”

Boone marks Veterans Day recalling his Marine Corps buddies.

“I think of those that didn’t make it,” he said, “and that makes me real sad.

Kirkland spent his 19th birthday in Vietnam, a combat engineer with the US Army. Many of his comrades didn’t survive what was then the longest US military conflict.

Kirkland, the colorful owner of an island business and a leader in the community, was hesitant when asked to ponder the meaning of Veterans Day.

“I learned a couple of things,” he said. “That I signed a contract to put my life on the line, to serve my country, and how great our country is.

“I just hope the younger generations realize the freedoms (they) have are because someone before them gave their lives. There’s a high cost for the freedom others don’t have.”

Sanibel City Hall is at 800 Dunlop. The public is invited to join in the event.