Armed Forces Day Parade Leesburg Florida 2012

Armed Forces Day Parade and Veteran’s Memorial Dedication Ceremony

 

MILLARD K. IVES | Staff Writer

millardives@dailycommercial.com

In a salute to local veterans, hundreds of people braved the sweltering heat at Fountain Lake Park in Leesburg early Saturday afternoon as others huddled under shaded areas to take part in the Veteran’s Memorial dedication ceremony.

Officials tout it as one of the largest of its kind in the southeast United States, a granite memorial that measures 60 feet in diameter, 7 feet high and covers 2,800 square feet with room for 30,000 names — with the American and POW-MIA flags hovering over it.

“This is the most impressive memorial I’ve seen in a local community in the United States,” said retired United State Maj. Gen. Paul Brown, standing at the podium in front of the crowd.

In an area behind City Hall, the memorial honors veterans in the counties of Lake, Marion and Sumter.

 

The dedication was to coincide with Armed Forces Day, the third Saturday of May. Surrounded by flags of various military branches and red bricks that can be used to honor anyone, the memorial includes special sections of dedication such as Medal of Honor recipients and war heroes.

“This will make it a special landmark,” said Leesburg Mayor Sanna Henderson.

The memorial also has a computer on site that allows visitors to find a name on the memorial walls. Alfredo L. Laporte, who served 35 years in the Army as a helicopter mechanic, flashed a huge grin after finding his name.

He posed besides his name as family members snapped pictures of him.

“This lets people know who served their country with honor,” said Laporte, of Leesburg.

Several retired military spoke at the ceremony and pointed out the importance of the veterans and the need to honor them and pass their stories to future generations.

“We as a nation would be less if it wasn’t for our veterans,” said Florida National Guard 1st Sgt. Carey Baker, who relayed a couple of war stories

The ceremony included a number of military activities, including the playing of taps. Brown, who spoke on “Our Country’s Future,” seemed to use the ceremony to campaign for Republicans, saying the current presidential administration was taking the country in the wrong direction.

The ceremony was one of a number of Armed Forces Day events in Lake County on Saturday. A parade in downtown Leesburg that ended at Fountain Lake Park helped to kick off the events and included more than 30 marching and military units as well as floats, twirlers and bikers.

“I just want to show my support,” said John Jackson, of Clermont, waving a small American flag.

The South Lake Historical Society held a dedication of the Quonset hut, which was converted to a World War II museum at the Clermont’s Historic Village. The Rolling Thunder, a national veterans motorcycle group, presented the “Flame of Freedom” and hosted a “Missing Man Table” ceremony” in Leesburg Towne Square.

And Gator Harley-Davidson was slated to host an annual Memorial Armed Forces Ride.

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