Oldsmar hosts another stirring Veterans Day ceremony

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City and state officials, including Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, Senator Jack Latvala and Congressman Gus Bilirakis, pose for a photo during Oldsmar’s 2015 Veterans Day ceremony.

Many municipalities in the greater Tampa Bay area hold special Veterans Day cere-monies, but few know how to honor America’s veterans like the City of Oldsmar.

From hosting one of the only Gold Star Mothers and Families memorials in the state, to recently being recognized as a Purple Heart community, Oldsmar takes showing appreciation for our country’s veterans very seriously.

So it comes as no surprise that the city’s 2015 Veterans Day ceremony was a special, often stirring, affair, filled with touching tributes, emotional songs and a strong group of guest speakers, including Iraq War veteran Randy Swallows and US Congressman Gus Bilirakis, all set against the backdrop of Oldsmar’s stunning Veterans Memorial Park.

U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis.

U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis speaks at the 2015 Veterans Day ceremony in Oldsmar.

“According to the V.A., 7.3 million American’s have served in the military at some point in their lives,” Bilirakis, who is the Vice Chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, told the crowd on a sun-drenched Wednesday morning.  “And they all share the same fundamental qualities: courage, pride, selflessness, integrity, and dedication to duty.”

“It’s important that we spend every day, every day, honoring our veterans, our true American heroes,” Bilirakis added. “Our veterans have done so much for this country, we need to give them the care and respect they deserve in a timely manner.”

Following Bilirakis’ speech, Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis relayed a personal story about veterans and Swallows, an Army infantryman who suffered from PTSD upon his return from Iraq, spoke about what it’s like to return to America after experiencing the horrors of war, before a roll call of names being added the veterans memorial wall was announced.

Taps is played by a member of Safety Harbor American Legion Post 238.

Taps is played by a member of Safety Harbor American Legion Post 238.

The ceremony concluded with a rendition of Taps by members of the Safety Harbor American Legion Post 238 before Swallows, Mayor Bevis and City Clerk Ann Nixon, whose name was added to the wall this year, laid the wreath at the base of the park’s monument.

Afterwards, Bilirakis spoke about why be believes honoring veterans is such an integral part of Oldsmar’s identity.

“I’ve had an opportunity to represent Oldsmar since 1998, and they really care for their citizens, specifically for their veterans,” Congressman Bilirakis told Oldsmar Connect.

“They have prioritized veterans – I mean look at this beautiful park we’re sitting in. It’s for veterans,” he added. “It’s an ideal location…and I love the fact that they’re so open minded and they think outside the box. It’s just a great city.”

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Oldsmar’s Veterans Memorial.

At least one veteran agreed with the congressman.

“I think it’s wonderful what Oldsmar does for veterans,” Denise Selsky, whose father’s name is on the memorial wall, said.

“But it would be nice if Pinellas County kids had school off today so they could come out and appreciate it, too. Because it’s very important.”

After most of the participants and members of the crowd had dispersed, Mayor Bevis took a moment to reflect on the city’s latest Veterans Day celebration.

“The location is just beautiful, and the ceremony continues to grow,” Bevis said. “The structure of the ceremony itself – putting it in the hands of the Veterans Affairs Committee – they do a great job, and who better to run it?”

“And the turnout shows the relationship the City of Oldsmar has with our elected officials,” he added. “They are so important with what we do in this City.”

Here’s a look at some of the sights from Oldsmar’s 2015 Veterans Day celebration:

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