By Anna-Marie Menhenott
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- The somber feel that hung over Veteran's Memorial Park this past Monday was interrupted with laughter, hugs and stories as service men and women shared their experiences of war, their heartache at the loss and their pride and joy at being an American.
With the wind blowing the American flag which flew at half-staff, the soldiers, guardsmen and auxiliary members from local posts and units gathered together to pay their respects to those who served in the armed forces, those who are still serving, and those who lost their lives defending the freedoms so many enjoy.
"Planning this event can take up to six or seven months," said Billie Pierce, president of the auxiliary of unit 40 in Port St. Lucie. "We have to gather the speakers, members of the JROTC, musicians and the chaplain. We don't have to remind the veteran's about the event. We've held it here for years. They know what time to be here and they know what to expect."
Each year, guest speakers tell stories of the past and throw out such names as Patton and Eisenhower. The crowd listens intently, laughs at wartime jokes and wipes tears as they are reminded of how their lives were forever changed.
An appearance from the drill team from Westwood High School added a youthful touch to the morning.
There was a presentation of the wreaths and a three-round volley by the Honor Guard from American Legion Post 40 under the direction of Bob Green.
Taps and the 21-gun salute reminded those present that the lives lost overseas can never be forgotten.
"Every time we play Taps, there are tears running down my cheeks," said Ms. Pierce, who performs alongside another post member. "I come from a military family. My father, brothers, husband and daughter all have served or are still serving. I lost my husband in 2005 and I'll never let a Memorial Day go by without me paying my respects to all of them and the rest of the service members."
A fly-over from the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Aviation Unit, under the direction of Lt. Chris Vandeventer, wowed the crowd before closing remarks and a luncheon for all to enjoy.
Witnessing such emotion brought a new meaning to Memorial Day. Knowing that there's such a bond between all branches of the service puts into perspective that they're all fighting for the same cause - freedom.