Some attended because they are veterans, and others were there because a loved one is serving in the military. All attended the city of Ocoee's annual Veterans Day program to pay tribute to the United States veterans who served this country both domestic and abroad.
Mayor Pro Tem George Oliver III, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, led the program and asked veterans to stand and be recognized — all of whom earned the right, he said. These men and women represented multiple military branches and several different wars. Among them were Ocoee fire battalion chiefs Tom Smothers, who spent six years in the U.S. Navy, and David Whitaker, who was in the U.S. Army for six years.
Veterans stood also when the Ocoee Middle School Wind Ensemble played the music from their particular military branch.
Dr. Barbara Gannon gave the keynote address. She is a veteran of the U.S. Army and the coordinator for the University of Central Florida's Community Veterans History program, which focuses on oral history. She authored a book, "The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic," which won her several awards.
Gannon thanked not only the veterans, but the loved ones who show unwavering support.
To the vets present, she acknowledged they always carry the memories of the comrades they lost.
"On Veterans Day, we remember those who didn't have the chance to become veterans," she said. "Veterans Day is a call to action. It's about deeds, not words."
Following the indoor ceremony, guests walked to the nearby war memorial wall for the program finale.
The city's police and fire honor guards presented the colors, placed a wreath at the wall and raised the American flag. Ocoee High School trumpeter Harmon Hollis lent his talents with a rendition of taps.