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Grand Opening Of The Bud And Dorie Day Patriots' Trail

The Bud and Dorie Day Patriots’ Trail is officially open in Ft. Walton Beach.

The trail is named in honor of Vietnam War hero Col. Bud Day, who died in July of 2013 at the age of 88, and his wife Dorie. It winds down Staff Drive, Nebraska Avenue, and California Drive and features 16 historical markers comprised of information highlighting their life together.

There’s a marker detailing Bud’s childhood, another on how he met the woman who would become the love of his life.

“I think it’s going to be a peaceful thing and it’ll give you a lot time to think. And, think about your own self and your own life. I think there will be a lot of people that will really find peace walking on the trail.”

That’s Dorie Day, she says the occasion was heartwarming yet bittersweet because it was held on what would have been their 66th wedding anniversaryThe third marker along the trail highlights their courtship and their wedding in 1949.

Although the last time Day visited the trail it was still a work in progress, it brought back a family memory from one of the last holidays spent with her husband, “ I brought four children with and I said you look around and we’ll stop and you tell me what you think. The first thing Sandra said was the water doesn’t have any ducks. We had ducks at home. And then all of a sudden they disappeared. My husband kept saying where’d the ducks go? Where’d the ducks go? So for his last Christmas we wheeled him out in the wheelchair and we had an unveiling and she had bought five domestic ducks. And, they are just so sweet.”

Also at the ceremony, State Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach). Gaetz says one of the great highlights of his career is securing $300,000 in state funding to help seed the project and move it along, “ To have this delightful trail, in honor of Bud and Dorie Day. I can’t think of a more worthy cause, a more worthy priority then honoring our great heroes. And, that’s why it’s so cool to live in Northwest Florida, right? We know how to celebrate our heroes.”

Not only was the ceremony a family affair for the Days, it was also one for the Gaetz family. State Sen. Don Gaetz, (R-Niceville) revealed his expectations for the trail and for the generations to come that will use it, “My hope is that the children who come to this community or who live in this community, go to school in this community, who use this trail, who walk here with their moms and dads will ask the question, Who was Bud Day? Who is Dorie Day? And then we can tell them that bud day was the most decorated American hero since Douglas MacArthur and that Dorie Day was the love of his life.”

Credit Danielle Freeman
The Day family embraces next to the sign explaining the trail: Dorie Day and her children, George Day Jr. and her daughters Sandra Hearn and Sonja Lajeunesse.

Bud and Dorie Day’s youngest son, George Day Jr. addressed a crowd of more than a hundred people gathered at the beginning of the trail. Day says he’s extremely thankful to the community for creating a place he can return to year after year to reminisce about their family, “I’m very grateful, and as a family we’re very grateful. For doing something that uplifts the community, that honors not just my dad and mom, but it honors all of those who have served and fought for our freedoms here in America.”

The Greater FWB Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the project. But, the idea behind the walking trail came from Cissy Wyninegar, a good friend of the Days and president of the Fort Walton Beach Women’s Club, which will be responsible for upkeep of the memorial garden coming soon.

Later this summer, once the nearby Docie Bass recreation center is demolished, the second phase of the project will begin. A courtyard and memorial garden will be constructed and will serve as the main entry way to the Patriots' Trail.