Oldsmar’s commitment to honoring America’s military veterans, especially those who gave their lives in service of their country, could be felt on Memorial Day.
Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Richard Cicero, Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, and retired US Army veteran Anna Clay Murgado at Oldsmar’s 2016 Memorial Day ceremony.
Many communities across the country honor their veterans every Memorial Day.
But not many municipalities do so with as much reverence, respect, and emotion as the City of Oldsmar, which utilizes its spectacular Veterans Memorial Park as a backdrop for some truly special tributes to America’s veterans.
So it’s no surprise that the city, which has been recognized as one of two Purple Heart communities in Pinellas County and one of the only cities in the entire state to recognize the families of fallen soldiers, appreciates the real meaning behind Memorial Day.
That meaning—remembering those who died while serving in the country’s armed forces—was driven home during Oldsmar’s 2016 Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, as a large crowd braved the late-May heat for another stirring salute to America’s fallen heroes.
Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis on Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day isn’t just about honoring veterans, it’s about honoring those who lost their lives,” Mayor Doug Bevis said during his introductory speech at the city’s Monday morning ceremony, adding “veterans get to come home.”
“I’m not asking you not to have a barbecue today,” he added. “I’m asking you to remember why you’re having that barbecue.”
Indeed the true meaning behind Memorial Day was emphasized over and over again by the ceremony’s guest speakers, which included Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel, Council members Dan Saracki and Jerry Beverland, Craig and Toni and Gross and Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice.
The Gross’ tribute to their son, Army Spc. Frank Gross, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011, was especially moving, as they showed images and artwork created by Frank.
“I refuse to ever let this country forget what our son did for our freedom,” Craig Gross said at the end of the tear-filled tribute.
Toni and Craig Gross gave a moving tribute to their son, Army Spc. Frank Gross, on Memorial Day 2016.
And while that message was still resonating with the audience, it was the words of keynote speaker Ret. U.S. Army Master Sgt. Richard Cicero that brought the crowd to its feet.
“I’m old school, I don’t believe in using a microphone,” Cicero, a former police officer and military contractor who lost an arm and a leg while searching for explosive devices in Afghanistan in 2010, said as he paced the area in front of the crowd.
Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Richard Cicero gave a passionate speech on Memorial Day.
Cicero went on to state that people today need to stop talking about taking action and “just do it,” and he spoke about honoring veterans every day, not just on designated holidays.
“I ask you to remember what these people sacrifice themselves for—so that you can be here today,” he said, and he walked off the stage area to a standing ovation and thunderous applause.
After the speech, Mayor Bevis conducted the placing of the commemorative wreath with Cicero and retired US Army veteran Anna Clay Murgado, which was followed by the traditional rendition of “Taps” and 17-year-old musician Francesca Ani singing the Lee Greenwood hit, “God Bless the USA.”
Following the ceremony, a number of attendees spoke about Oldsmar’s latest veterans event.
“I think it was very appropriate and very touching,” Charles Lister III, whose father, Charles Liston Jr., is a former Oldsmar mayor who played a key role in developing the city’s fire department and whose name is included on the park’s Wall of Honor, said.
“I think my father would be proud, and it made me proud to be from the City of Oldsmar.”
Beverland, who helped get Veterans Memorial Park built when he was mayor back in 1996, said there’s a simple reason why the city treats its veterans so reverently.
“Oldsmar is a very patriotic city, and we’re not afraid to show it off,” he said.
Here’s a look at some of the sights from the City of Oldsmar’s 2016 Memorial Day ceremony: