Mayor Frank Hibbard and the Clearwater city council proclaimed the week of November 4-11 to be Veteran's Week. The commemorations began by honoring area veterans Saturday, November 4 at the Long Center Parade Field with patriotic pomp and pageantry at the city's second annual Clearwater Veterans Appreciation Day (CVAD), organized by a volunteer group of the same name. The St. Petersburg Community Band played The Star Spangled Banner and the military hymns of each branch of the armed forces during massing of the colors. Hibbard, keynote speakers Congressman Bill Young and wife Beverly, guest speaker Command Sergeant Major Cynthia Pritchett, Mike O'Meara, CVAD president and veteran, Master of Ceremonies Bob Swick, a former Marine Corps captain who served in Vietnam from 1966- 67, and Sandy O'Hara Hanson, Miss Armed Forces Pin-Up and Sweetheart to American Veterans of World War II, presided over the opening ceremony and concert.
Keynote speaker Congressman Bill Young (R-FL District 10), the senior member of the Florida congressional delegation and the senior Republican in the House of Representatives, put into words what spectators felt while watching the military performances and presentation of colors, when he evoked the date of December 7, 1941, recalling the sleeping giant that awakened that day. "At the end of World War II, we were the only country with nuclear weapons," said Congressman Young. "We could have used that power to take away the freedom of others and their property, but we didn't. We just wanted our freedom." Congressman Young said countries critical of the United States as we conduct the war on terror should be reminded of that fact. Young commended veterans and expressed gratitude and respect for their sacrifices in the defense of our country, and also praised our active-duty troops for their service. "Today's military are tomorrow's veterans," he noted. From 1999-2005, Congressman Young served as Chairman of the House Appropriations and oversaw the federal discretionary budget. In addition to his previous tenure as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, he served as a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Congressman Young's 14 years of service on the Intelligence Committee is the longest tenure of any member in history. He and Mrs. Young are dedicated to improving the quality of life for those who serve in the military and their families.
Taking time off from duties at MacDill Air Force base, Army Command Sergeant Major Cynthia Pritchett, who is the Senior Enlisted Leader of the US and Coalition Forces, was the guest speaker for the Appreciation Day. She stated, "I have had the privilege to serve the people of the United States, side by side with our sister services and many of our coalition and allied partners around the world for 33 years. I can tell you without a doubt and without reservation that the men and women who proudly serve as soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard personnel in our armed forces today are some of the most dedicated, talented, committed, innovated, compassionate, tough, and determined professionals I have ever met. They are carrying on the proud traditions of all those who have gone before us." Command Sergeant Major Pritchett shared and displayed images of her recent tour in Afghanistan.
Sandy O'Hara-Hanson, Miss Armed Forces Pin-up - Vietnam War, has been recognized for her unselfish devotion to the cause of elevating morale among the troops of the United States Armed Forces. O'Hara-Hanson followed previous pin-ups Betty Grable (World War II) and Marilyn Monore (Korean War) in receiving the honor. O'Hara-Hanson, who has starred on stage and screen, visits Veteran's Administration Hospitals, and speaks to clubs and groups on the importance of supporting our men and women in the military. She and husband actor, Dave Hanson, will be appearing in The Sun City Center Woman's Club fundraiser, "Star Studded Show", Nov. 10 to benefit the club's philanthropic projects.
During his keynote speech, Congressman Young wanted to make sure we acknowledged our law enforcement and first responders. He said we should pay tribute to the police, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians for all they do. For Veterans Appreciation Day, members of Clearwater's first responders were on hand with field displays of their vehicles and weapons. Clearwater's fire and police departments, motorcycle unit, K-9 and SWAT teams, were given a round of applause for their civil service.
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