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Posted November 7, 2017 | 2:03 PM

Honoring America's Veterans

Plan to stop by Veterans Memorial Park on Nov. 11 to say thank you

At the end of a war waged on such an unprecedented scale that it became known as the Great War, an annual tradition of saying thank you to America's military veterans was born. On Saturday, Nov. 11, Hillsborough County residents have an opportunity to join in an observance that means as much to veterans today as it did to those soldiers who fought for freedom nearly a century ago.

"Many suffer the wounds of war, mentally and physically, and to them a profound debt of gratitude is owed," said Rafael Candelario, president of the Hillsborough County Veterans Council and a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant major.

The county's 2017 Veterans Day Tribute begins at 11 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park and LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, 3602 U.S. Highway 301 N. in Tampa. The 53rd annual event will honor active and former U.S. military service members from all branches. Admission and parking are free. Visitors are invited to bring lawn chairs, enjoy patriotic music, and stay for refreshments following the ceremony.

County Veterans Day Closings

With a theme of "Honoring America's Veterans" and co-hosted by the Veterans Council, the event will feature a variety of speakers and presentations, including:

  • Col. S. Troy Pananon, Vice Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base
  • Col. Jim Waurishuk, USAF, Retired
  • JROTC color guard, drill performances, and patriotic recitations from local high schools
  • POW/MIA Missing Man Ceremony, rifle salute, and taps
  • Veterans Council Awards

This year's observance comes with a special distinction: For the first time, the Veterans Day National Committee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has named Hillsborough County's Veterans Memorial Park and LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum to its official list of Regional Veterans Day Sites. The designation recognizes select observances throughout the country that represent fitting tributes to America's heroes, and that can serve as models for other communities to follow in planning their own events.

Veterans Day has its roots in the end of World War I, with President Woodrow Wilson proclaiming Nov. 11, 1919, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. In 1938, Congress made Armistice Day a legal holiday. In 1954, the 83rd Congress replaced "Armistice" with "Veterans" to honor American veterans of all wars. Later that year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation: "…let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom…"

For more information about the 53rd annual Veterans Day Tribute call (813) 744-5349.

Photo information: Hillsborough County's 2017 Veterans Day Tribute will honor active and former U.S. military service members from all branches.