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Veterans Memorial Park Remembers Nation's Fallen

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Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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Americans who fell in wartime were honored Sunday, at the annual Memorial Day service at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Pensacola.

In a ceremony that was shorter than previous ones, Veterans Park Foundation President Butch Hansen greeted a smaller than usual crowd. In his remarks he mentioned Founding Father Patrick Henry – who’s 280th birthday was Sunday – and read Henry’s words that were printed on the back of the program.

“I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death,” Hansen quoted Henry, then said, “And that’s the beginning of ‘America’s worth dying for.’”

The ceremony also honored John Ochs, the Foundation’s treasurer. The Vietnam-era Navy veteran died earlier this month at the age of 69.

Guest speaker for the event was retired Marine Corps Colonel Tony Gain, who said standing before The Wall South – a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington – was especially important in 2016 – 50 years after the start of the war for the United States.

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Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Retired Marine Col. Tony Gain

“There are three sets of fathers and sons on that Wall,” said Gain. “The largest age group that lost their life on that wall is 18. There are 31 sets of parents who lost two sons. There are eight women on that Wall killed nursing the wounded.”

Gain added that the more than 58,000 names on both walls tell only part of the story.

“For those who survived and for family members of those who did not, we see faces; we feel the pain that these numbers created,” Gain said. “They were our friends; our fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.”

Gain concluded his 15-minute address by reading from a poem in a prayer book he received while on active duty, from a five-year-old boy in Arkansas:

Whoever you are, there’s someone younger who thinks you’re perfect,

There’s some work that will never be done, if you don’t do it.

There’s someone who will miss you if you are gone.

There’s a reason for becoming better than you are.

There’s a place in this world to be filled, that only you can fill.

Two organizations – the Vietnam/Legacy Veterans Motorcycle Club and Daughters of the American Revolution – placed wreaths at the Wall South. Marines in dress blue uniforms rendered a 21-gun salute followed by a Marine bugler playing Taps.

If all goes to plan, a new monument – representing the Global War on Terror – will have its place at Veterans Memorial Park. The Foundation is seeking design ideas from the public, with fundraising to begin soon. Once the Foundation has acquired adequate monies, it will take about a year for design approval by the city.