Bob Bober of American Legion Post 119, at the podium, explains the symbolism in the elements of a table set for one, representing the prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, as members of the Largo Police & Fire Honor Guard stand at attention during the city of Largo’s Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11.
LARGO – The city of Largo honored all veterans with a nighttime ceremony at the Military Court of Honor in Largo Central Park Nov. 11, but paid a special tribute to its recently fallen hero, Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton.
City Manager Mac Craig presented two “eagles,” usually reserved for city employees who have served in the military, to Sitton’s family – his parents Steve and Cheryl Sitton and his widow, Sarah, holding their son, Brodey, who recently turned 1.
Matthew Sitton died Aug. 2, at age 26, while serving in Afghanistan.
“Matthew was an exceptional soldier,” said Craig. “The proof of that to me was, while attending his funeral, meeting and seeing the many soldiers who had served with him in different assignments, who came to his funeral from all over the nation and one even attending from Germany.”
The eagles were given “in appreciation for your service and full measure of devotion to your nation, from the city and residents of Largo,” Craig added.
Eagles also were presented to Assistant Fire Chief Doug Swartz and Police Lt. Michael Loux, who both served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Largo Mayor Pat Gerard spoke during the ceremony.
“On Veterans Day we express our appreciation for all those who put on the uniform of the armed forces, for those that signed up in the heat of a world war, knowing that they would be sent to the battlefield and for those that signed up to train in the reserves one weekend a month, not knowing if they would need those skills,” she said.
Her own speech hit a personal note when she commended “those who spent the duration of World War II on an island in the Pacific, like my father-in-law did.” Her father-in-law passed away a couple of months ago, she explained.
Gerard called for the nation to keep its veterans from becoming homeless and demand job preference and the highest quality of health care for its heroes.
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Lt. Col. Norma Vargus of the U.S. Army, assigned at U.S. Central Command as chief of the analysis branch.
“This Veterans Day we honor and thank more than 22 million American veterans,” Vargus said. “We honor these true heroes who selfishly supported and defended this great nation, giving their lives, sometimes paying the ultimate price for the freedom and ideals we love and cherish every day.”
She also highlighted the role of military families.
“Our veterans’ families also deserve our collective thanks. Their support makes the service of their loved ones possible,” she said.
The tribute featured music by local residents. The Florida Fanfare Brass opened the ceremony, with Suzan Sinz, C.J. Love and Nija Case singing the national anthem. Raquel Montoya sang “God Bless America” a cappella and Ashley Brinton played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.
The ceremony concluded with a three-gun volley and the playing of taps.