It has long been thought that only one resident of Winter Garden, Hugh T. Gregory, was killed serving his country in World War I. But nearly a century after that war — and 22 years after a monument was erected to recognize residents killed in all wars since then — a 26th name has been etched into the gray granite: U.S. Army Pvt. George R. Tamsitt.
“Nobody knows anything about him, other than the fact that he was a resident here in Winter Garden in the timeframe of the war and when he was in service,” Judd Kuneman, American Legion adjutant, said. “We don’t know if he enlisted here.”
According to records, Tamsitt was killed in an accident while serving during World War I.
His name was discovered by Kathy Churray, the historian for the American Legion Hugh T. Gregory Post in Winter Garden. She was looking for more information on Gregory when she stumbled upon a story about Orange County’s war memorial. It listed two city residents — Gregory and Tamsitt.
“We just wanted to make sure that if there was someone in Winter Garden that served, that he was recognized on the memorial down at the park,” Kuneman said of Tamsitt’s addition to the memorial. “It’s a shame that we can’t find more details other than the fact that he died in an accident. We want to recognize the service of this resident in World War I.”
Anyone who can provide more information about the private or his family is encouraged to call the American Legion post at (407) 656-6361.
At the city’s annual Memorial Day program on Monday, Tamsitt’s name will be called with the other war dead — taking his place in Winter Garden history after all this time.
The city of Ocoee will remember and pay tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives serving their country during the annual Memorial Day ceremony. It is at 11 a.m. Friday, May 22, at the Ocoee Lakeshore Center, 125 N. Lakeshore Drive.
The keynote speaker is Michael McDaniel, department adjutant of the Florida American Legion. He served in the U.S. Marines for 26 years and reached the rank of master gunnery sergeant.
After retiring from the military, McDaniel became a strong advocate for veterans and their families.
During his 10 years as a legionnaire, he has been involved with the American Legion Department of Florida for more than six years and has served as the current Department Adjutant of the Florida American Legion for nine years. He oversees more than 300 posts and 113,101 legionnaires throughout Florida. In his position, he continues to be an advocate for veterans’ rights in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee.
The Memorial Day Ceremony program will include a processional to the Ocoee Memorial Wall, where a wreath will be set in place. The Memorial Wall is inscribed with the names of Ocoee residents who gave their lives for freedom. Ocoee High School student Andrew Jolicoeur will sing the national anthem, and there will be ceremonial flag presentations by the Ocoee High School Air Force JROTC Color Guard and Ocoee Police Department Honor Guard. Jacob Pickett, Ocoee Middle School band director, will play taps. The public is invited to attend the ceremony, and refreshments will be served after the program.
The city of Winter Garden will begin its Memorial Day service at 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 25, at Veterans Memorial Park, 420 S. Park Ave. U.S. Navy Master Chief Jerry L. Hagan is the featured speaker at this year’s program. A roll call of deceased veterans, placement of wreaths at the war memorial, patriotic music and refreshments will be included in the ceremony, which is held annually to honor the citizens who did not return from war. The bugler is Siebie Turk, who performs at Navy funerals on Florida’s west coast.
Master Chief Jerry Hagan is a native of Okeechobee. In November 1985, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and completed basic training in Orlando. After graduation, he went to Service School Command at Orlando’s Naval Training Center and completed Torpedoman’s Mate “A” School. He then reported for duty to Charleston Weapons Station, Charleston, South Carolina. After working in the torpedo shops, he joined the Auxiliary Security Force to begin his security and law-enforcement career.
After Sept. 11, 2001, he was mobilized for 23 months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and reported to Law Enforcement Specialist School in Texas as the lead instructor and leading petty officer for the schoolhouse teaching Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force personnel security and law-enforcement courses.
He has worked in many capacities and locations during his military career and has been mobilized and deployed numerous times. He has provided security for several high-level dignitaries.
He has earned numerous awards, including Navy and Marine Corps commendation and achievement medals, a Reserve Meritorious Service Medal (seven awards), a National Defense Medal (two awards), Global War on Terrorism expeditionary and service medals, Sea and Overseas service ribbons awards, a Naval Reserve Service Medal and Expert Rifle and Pistol marksman medals.
Hagan retired from the Navy this year after 30 years of service. He has been with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years and will continue his duties there as corporal.