On a day that Tropical Storm Alberto threatened to dominate Central Florida’s focus, a true Memorial Day hero emerged as the appropriate remembrance – the fallen American soldier.
On battlefields that will live in infamy like Bunker Hill, Appomattox, Antietam, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Argonne, Normandy, Pearl Harbour, Iwo Jima, Baghdad, Tora Bora, and Abbottabad to not so famous conflicts like Resaca de la Palma, Quingua, the Hurtgen Forest, Haeju, Dien Bien Phu, and Umm Qasr American soldiers have fought and died with the sole purpose of freedom for the citizens of the United States.
And on this day, Apopka remembered their valor.
On a humid sunny morning with a mild breeze blowing rain clouds away from the service, the Apopka Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10147 and the City of Apopka sponsored the annual Memorial Day service at the Edgewood/Greenwood Cemetery.
“What a great day,” said Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson. “The weather has held out. It’s always nice when you have two pastors on your commission because they can pray-up for us and keep the rain clouds away.”
Over 200 people attended the ceremony. They wore military uniforms, Boy Scout uniforms, Girl Scout uniforms, as well as patriotic red, white and blue clothing.
But most of all they came to pay their respects.
Senior Vice Commander of the VFW Post 10147 Andy Anderson welcomed the crowd and presided in the place of Artie Vecchio, the Commander of the Post and a World War II veteran, who is in Hospice. Vecchio has presided over countless Memorial Day services.
Pastor Alexander H. Smith delivered the invocation and Pastor Doug Bankson dismissed the audience after the benediction. Both Bankson and Smith are also on the Apopka City Council.
Other elected officials in attendance were Apopka City Commissioners Kyle Becker and Alice Nolan, former Apopka Vice Mayor Bill Arrowsmith, Orange County School Board member Christine Moore and former Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer.
The Apopka Police Department Color Guard, Boy Scout Troop 211, and the Girl Scout Troop 1642 presented the posting of the colors, Carlos Ahrens sand the Star Spangled Banner, Steve Deviese and William Byrd read the list of fallen heroes from Post 10147, Matthew Hutchinson played All the Blue Bonnets are O’er the Border, and Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, Nelson and Anderson presented a wreath dedication for the fallen heroes, and David Hernandez played a bugle rendition of Taps.
Steve Deviese was the Memorial Speaker, who offered these important words to the families who have lost loved ones on American battlefields from Normandy to Afghanistan:
“To anyone who has lost a loved one in duty to this country… it doesn’t matter how much time has passed. No words of condolence can ever begin to adequately console a survivor’s grief. And though the loss may change over time, it never leaves.”
Keep those families in your thoughts and prayers today as well as the families of Barney Barnes, Stuart Ennis, Wilfred Jacobson, Anthony Rossi, and Jerry Weiss, the fallen heroes of Post 10147.
But especially say a special prayer for Artie Vecchio and his family and friends. In many ways, he was the heart and soul of the Apopka Memorial Day Ceremony.