Local citizens who paid the ultimate price will be honored at annual Memorial Day ceremonies in the cities of Ocoee and Winter Garden. Each will have retired military personnel speak during the program.
The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 24, at the Tom Ison Seniors and Veterans Center, 1701 Adair St. The public is invited to attend.
This year’s guest speaker is Anthony Gladney, a veteran of the U.S. Army who served for 12 years before being injured on an operation with the 82nd Airborne. He achieved the rank of E5 sergeant.
In 1991, Gladney’s first assignment was with the 1/506 Infantry in the demilitarized zone in South Korea, where he received an award for recovering sensitive classified information in the Joint Security Area of the DMZ. He also served in the Army Band with the 7th, 82nd, 8th Army and 77th Army Bands playing for the President of the United States on March 18, 1996.
Gladney is a native of Egypt and lives in Ocoee with his wife, Sherri, and their three children.
The program will honor Ocoee’s fallen soldiers with flag presentations by the Ocoee Fire Department Honor Guard, commemorative wreaths, the national anthem and taps. Mayor Rusty Johnson and the city commissioners will recite the names of Ocoee residents who gave their lives in the name of freedom and democracy.
For more information, call (407) 905-3100 or visit ocoee.org.
Winter Garden’s program will take place at 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 27, at Veterans Memorial Park, 420 S. Park Ave. The community is invited to attend and enjoy the ceremony, as well as coffee and doughnuts. Kurt Gies, American Legion commander, is the master of ceremonies.
The guest speaker is retired Air Force Col. Wayne Mendez, a combat veteran with more than 33 years of service, including eight enlisted.
At his retirement, he was deputy director of logistics and Command Competition advocate for Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
He was born in Honolulu and is married to the former Julia G. Bekemeyer, of Winter Garden. They have three children.
Former City Commissioner Theo Graham organized and led the Memorial Day program for 25 years before handing it over to the city of Winter Garden and the Hugh T. Gregory American Legion Post 63 after the 2018 ceremony.
“We want to maintain Theo’s legacy and use the day to honor those who had given the ultimate sacrifice,” Gies said. “This year we’re going to keep (the program) the same, and as we grow into this we’ll look into things we can possibly do.”
The ceremony also will include patriotic music, a roll call and placement of wreaths at the veterans memorial and taps.