BAY PINES, Fla. – Since 1938, Americans have gathered on Nov. 11 to celebrate our Veterans for their courage, sacrifice, and selfless devotion to our Nation.
“Veterans Day allows us to come together and celebrate America’s heroes for the freedoms they’ve safeguarded for us all,” said Paul M. Russo, Director/CEO, BPVAHCS. “Due to anticipated impacts from Tropical Storm Nicole, we had to shift our ceremony from Nov. 11 to Sunday. Nonetheless, it’s an honor to be able to gather in person and celebrate the men and women who’ve selflessly served our Nation, especially after being unable to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In recognition of the origins of Veterans Day, the ceremony began promptly at 11 a.m. Approximately 200 Veterans, their loved ones, and members of the public attended. During the event, special recognition was given to the Gold Star families for what they endured when their loved one paid the ultimate price in service to America. Bay Pines VA’s staff provided information about Suicide Prevention, Homeless Programs, Whole Health and other services that are aimed at improving the quality of life for our Veterans.
“I think today’s event was great because Veterans Day is celebrated once a year, but the VA takes care of us every day,” said David Miller, Vietnam-era U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and Hospital Representative for the National American Legion. “The reason I’m so involved with Veteran-centered organizations today, is to make sure that the younger generations don’t have to endure the same poor treatment we did when we came home.”
The event also featured a static display of antique military vehicles, a parade of colors from various Veteran Service Organizations, and a presentation of colors by MacDill Air Force Base’s Honor Guard. Guest speakers for the event included the Directors from the BPVAHCS, the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, and the Bay Pines National Cemetery. U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. (retired) Martin Steele served as the keynote speaker for this year’s event.
“Today, we are all here for one reason, to continue to do our duty,” Steele said. “We are here to recognize that as we celebrate the privilege of life, it also requires many of us to give back in order to protect our Nation and its citizens. It is my wish today, and everyday, to honor our service men and women for all they’ve given us.”