Tampa celebrates Veteran's Day early

11/07/08 Concetta DeLuco
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In recognition of Veteran’s Day, traditionally celebrated on Nov. 11, about a hundred people gathered at Joe Chillura Square in downtown Tampa today to honor those, living and dead, who served in the U.S. armed forces.

The event was sponsored in part by the Military Affairs Council for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Retired Army Major Gen. Fred Raymond, who serves on the council, said the affair was held to show appreciation to the veterans as well as pay homage to those currently serving in the military. Raymond said he would like to see a phased withdrawal of the troops in Iraq.

The ceremony commenced with participants honoring the military from Hillsborough County who were killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. invasions in 2001 and 2003, respectively. The names of the deceased were read by two retired veterans to a crowd consisting of wounded veterans, those currently serving and families of the deceased.

Among those injured included veteran Peter Reid. After surviving a mortar attack in Iraq in 2004 that killed three of his comrades, Reid remains partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Reid said the most important thing the American public needs to remember is not to forget those returning home from Iraq.

Mayor Pam Iorio was the keynote speaker; she regaled the crowd with the story of her military father. She said Veteran's Day was acknowledged by the city of Tampa today so that the veterans can spend Tuesday home with their families. And in recognition of the 75,000 injured and more than 4,000 Americans killed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iorio said, Tuesday is definitely a solemn day, but it needs to acknowledged as a joyful one as well.

Iorio said that regardless of who we passionately supported in the election, in the end we all voted red, white and blue. As a nation, we have a tendency to reunite after an election because preserving our freedom and maintaining our power as a nation is more important than the individual who wins the election, she added. This is the essence of what our veterans stand for and our soldiers fight, Iorio said.

The event was also partly sponsored by the Patel Conservatory, Hillsborough downtown partnership and the city of Tampa. The next joint venture for the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County is the construction of Heroes Plaza next to the Tampa Bay History Center. It will open early next year and will be another venue for veterans to be honored.

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