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Ft. Walton Beach Holds Veteran's Day Ceremony

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Beal Memorial Cemetery in Ft. Walton Beach hosted its annual Veteran’s Day ceremony on Tuesday. Gathered around the flagpole and surrounded by 1,600 flags placed in the cemetery, dozens of veterans from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, both Desert Storm Wars and the Global War on Terror were recognized for their service by the community.

This year’s guest speaker was Lt. General Bradley Heithold, Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, "Across the nation today this is happening a thousand of times over. Today, the eleventh hour, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, The end of the big war that was supposed to end all wars in 1918 in WWI, It was supposed to be over, wasn’t it? We called it Armistice Day, never again will the human race go to war with one another and kill each other over disputes. Never was supposed to happen again. It has. And it continues to, which is why now call it Veteran’s Day."

General Heithold enlisted in the Air Force in 1974 and spent three years at Holloman AFB, New Mexico as an F-4D avionics technician.  Now, as the AFSOC Commander he is in charge of about 19,000 active-duty, Reserve, Air National Guard and civilian professionals.

General Heithold said he is proud to serve in a county that draws strength from the variety of veteran’s and citizens that live in it, "When you look out across the crowd at the population of our great nation, you see the diversity of this great nation. Whether we’re talking diversity of race, whether we’re talking diversity of religion, or we’re talking diversity of sex. You see the great power of this country in the diversity of thought.  It just struck me how powerful this nation is and why we are as powerful as we are."

A long time participant of the FWB Veteran’s Day ceremony and first time speaker was Wing Commander Jonathan Millington of the Royal Air Force, and Senior National Representative for the United Kingdom, at the 33rd Fighter Wing, at Eglin Air Force Base. He began by quoting President Ronald Regan, saying “Those who live today remember those who do not. Those who know freedom today remember those who gave up their life for such freedom.” Commander Millington went on to say that it is important to remember those who have given their last breath for their county but also the loved ones left behind, "And so as we come here to honor those that died, we must remember those too who have been bereaved by the ones we’ve lost and loved. We also thank those who have returned with the memory of war’s desolation.  Many with levels of physical pain and mental pain that they will always have to bare, they perhaps more than all others will be determined to build a wiser world."

Family, friends, and community members honored the veteran’s by placing flowers at the flagpole near the main entrance. The ceremony also included a rifle volley by the 96th Air Base Wing, the playing of Taps and a fly-by as the crowd departed.

FWB Mayor Mike Anderson who is also a veteran of the Air Force was also in attendance representing the city by placing flowers at the flagpole. Mayor Anderson said it is essential to recognize the veterans in the community and agreed with General Heithold that it’s the right thing to do, "There’s so many veterans buried here, and it’s a small way for the city to recognize the importance of the contributions the veterans have made over the years.