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Pinellas honors its veterans on 11/11
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America marks Veterans Day with services on Sunday, Nov. 11.
On the 11th hour or the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918, Allied nations and Germany agreed to a temporary cease-fire, virtually ending World War I. At the time, world leaders said the armistice was the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Unfortunately, while the cease-fire did lead to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, it didn’t lead to the “end of all wars.” The U.S. Congress passed a resolution on June 4, 1926, marking the official end of World War I.

Long before that official action, Americans honored the act that ended the Great War” In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

According to a historical account on the Department of Veterans Affair’s website, “The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.”

On May 13, 1938, Congress passed an Act making Nov. 11 a legal holiday, known as "Armistice Day."

After World War II, in 1954, Congress amended the Act, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans,” and June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a legal holiday to honor American veterans of all wars.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to issue a Veterans Day Proclamation, a tradition that has continued to today.

Another tradition is the Veterans Day National Ceremony on Nov. 11 at the Arlington National Cemetery, which begins at 11 a.m. The ceremony includes laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, followed by a parade of colors inside the Memorial Amphitheater.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 21.5 million veterans living in the United States in 2011. Of that number, 7.5 million served in the Vietnam War; 5.1 million served during the Gulf War; 1.8 million service in World War II; 2.4 million served in the Korean War; and 5.4 million served during peacetime. There are none living that served in World War I.

California had the largest population of veterans, 1.9 million, followed by Florida and Texas with 1.6 million each.

Partially due to Bay Pines Veterans Hospital, Pinellas County is home to a large group of veterans. Over the years, the county’s municipalities and military organizations have set local traditions with ceremonies and other activities scheduled each year to honor its veterans.

This year’s events include the following.

Bay Pines VA Healthcare System hosts one of the largest ceremonies in Pinellas. The annual Veterans Day Ceremony will take place at the main medical center campus on Nov. 11 at 10 a.m. The event is open to all veterans, their family and friends, and the public.

Highlights of the ceremony will include musical performances by Singers Express and a special presentation by the Suncoast Vietnam Veterans of Pinellas County called “The Last Patrol.” The Last Patrol is a theatrical reenactment of a patrol in Vietnam during the last days of the war. While the act centers on Vietnam, it is intended also to honor all of the men and women who have served in uniform throughout the nation’s history.

Guest speakers will include Suzanne M. Klinker, Director, Bay Pines VA; Mike Prendergast, Executive Director, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs; Master Sgt. Jovanny Galiano, United States Special Operations Command; and keynote speaker Michael Jernigan, a Marine Corps Veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

The ceremony will also include a firing salute, taps performance, and military vehicle display.

Signage will be posted on campus to direct visitors to the ceremony venue. Reserved and general parking will be available nearby. A shuttle service will also be available to provide transportation for guest from parking lots to the ceremony area.

The venue is handicapped accessible. A sign language interpreter will be available for the hearing impaired. The ceremony will be held outdoors. Please dress appropriately.

- The American Legion Turner-Brandon Post 7 will honor veterans on Sunday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m., at 1760 Turner St., Clearwater. Following the ceremony, the Post will provide lunch for all attendees. Call 442-5293 or visit www.a­lpost­7clw.­org.

- Join the city of Largo in an intimate Veterans Day ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m., at the Military Court of Honor in Largo Central Park. Florida Fan Fare Brass will provide music. The event will include a keynote speaker and a color guard presentation. Admission is free.

Annual boat parade

One of the most popular Veteran’s Day events is the boat parade. The 16th annual Veterans Boat Parade is set to sail Saturday, Nov. 10 following opening ceremonies at 11 a.m. at American Legion Post 273 in Madeira Beach.

Plans call for parade chairs Barbara Stayer and Warren Shephard to make brief announcements as well as introduce the Pearl Harbor survivors and World War II veterans who will be aboard the Dolphin Quest.

A U.S. Air Force color guard from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa will present the colors. Four Air Force F-16 fighters from the 482nd Fighter Wing in Homestead will conduct a fly-over about 11:15 a.m. as the national anthem is sung.

The parade can be viewed at a number of area venues, including Post 273, the Holiday Isles Elks Lodge and John’s Pass where it is expected to reach shortly after noon.

To finish the festivities, a donations and awards presentation will follow at Post 273 on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 6:30 to 8 p.m.

The parade committee will present donations to local veterans’ organizations for 2012. In addition, engraved awards will be presented to the skipper and crew of the best-decorated boats. A continuous running slideshow will be shown throughout the presentations. Dinner is available until 8 p.m.

For additional information, contact Shephard at 348-5116 or email captshep@VeteransBoatParade.org.

Visit www.V­etera­nsBoa­tPara­de.or­g.

Other events to mark the occasion

- The town of Indian Shores is hosting a Veterans Day Street Fest Saturday, Nov. 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Indian Shores Municipal Center. The free event will include food, beer, vendors, arts and crafts, and a book sale. Tom Davis will provide entertainment from 1 to 4 p.m. For vendor information, call Bonnie at 474-7777.

The Suncoast Sandpipers Walking Club also is hosting a Veterans Salute 6/10K volkswalk and a 3K mutt walk Saturday, Nov. 10 as part of the Indian Shores Veterans Day Street Fest. The walks can be started anytime between 8:30 and 9 a.m. The noncompetitive walks will start and finish at the town’s Municipal Center at 19305 Gulf Blvd. Dog and human treats will be provided along the routes. The walk is $2 for adults; kids and dogs walk free. The 6/10K walk is sanctioned by the American Volkssport Association. Volkssport credit is an additional $1. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Paws for Patriots program dedicated to training service dogs for veterans. After the walk, participants can enjoy the food, vendors, and entertainment at the festival. For more information, call 542-9742 or email pipers@tampabay.rr.com.

- Stetson Law Alumni Veteran, Javier Centonzio, American Legion Post 125, The Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, The Gulfport Merchants, VETSports and the city of Gulfport are hosting Heroes weekend to support local veterans on Nov. 8, 10 and 11.

To kick-start the weekend on Thursday, Nov. 8, the Gulfport Casino Ballroom turns into a high-stakes gambling casino with Vegas style games including poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, slot machines and Texas hold'em. Buy ins include $1,000 each in "funny money" and can be increased. Enjoy auctions, hors d'oeuvres, a full cash bar and live music. The price is $20, $35 a couple in advance and $25 at the door. Proceeds benefit the Small Business Mentor Program at the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce and the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center Foundation. Veterans with ID cards get an extra $500 in ‘play money’ at the door. There will also be a table shared by the American Legion, veterans and the red hatters to promote their events at the Casino night. Visit the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce for tickets at 4926 Gulfport Blvd. S. to pick up advance tickets.

- The city of Gulfport Veteran’s Day Parade is Saturday, Nov. 10, beginning at 4 p.m. on Beach Boulevard. Visit www.m­ygulf­port.­us and scroll down under “Latest News” for more information.

VETSports vs. Gulfport Police and Fire Inaugural Beach Volleyball Benefit is Sunday, Nov. 11, 1 p.m. with proceeds from this event donated to the Tampa family of fallen solider Major David Taylor and Wounded Veterans of VETSports.

Many of these Veterans playing in the volleyball matches now use prosthetics for mobility. Come cheer on America’s bravest and Gulfport’s finest. Immediately following the volleyball matches, an aerial photo will be taken of the human-chain spelling of Gulfport, FL on the beach. For more details on the inaugural Gulfport and VETSports event, call City Councilman Dan Liedtke at 727-893-1012 or visit VETSp­orts.­org. Donations and volunteers welcome.

- Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance is teaming up with local fine art printer and studio, Canvas Zoo, to celebrate the art of military personnel and supporters. Open to the public Nov. 9 through 12, this show will feature the personal art created and collected by local veterans to raise awareness of The Florida Veterans Memorial.

The Florida Veterans Memorial is a project of the TBVA to celebrate veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan and The Cold War era. The memorial, designed by architect and deputy mayor of Belleair, Steven Fowler, will be located within Clearwater's Crest Lake Park, visible from Gulf-to-Bay/Route 60. Canvas Zoo is located at 1750 N. Hercules Ave., Clearwater. For more information, visit www.c­anvas­zoo.c­om/ta­mpaba­y-vet­eran-­art-e­xhibi­t or www.f­acebo­ok.co­m/can­vaszo­o.
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