Anna Maria salutes veterans on Memorial Day

Anna Maria salutes veterans on Memorial Day
Drummer Fai Fai Ho and Color Guard members Corp. Taj Canngieter, Sgt. Charles Sport, Sgt. Joy Christian and Sgt. Emerson Walker proceed to the City Pier Park flagpole for the wreath ceremony. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – The city of Anna Maria hosted its third annual Memorial Day Patriotic Salute this morning under the shade structure at City Pier Park.

“It’s a very special day for us in the city of Anna Maria. I welcome each and every one of you,” Mayor Dan Murphy said as the ceremony began.

Rev. Neil Crowell from the Roser Memorial Community Church then gave the invocation.

“What a joy it is to be here in a free land. Lord, we know freedom is not free. It comes very costly, at the lives of our service men and women. Thank you, Lord, for their great sacrifice and we honor them today,” Crowell said.

Murphy introduced the Anna Maria City Commission and thanked them for purchasing the property known as City Pier Park.

“It’s a wonderful asset for the city to have,” he said as Commissioner Doug Copeland passed out small American flags.

“What a joy it is to be here in a free land. Lord, we know freedom is not free.” – Rev. Neil Crowell, Roser Memorial Community Church

“We have a special guest with us today: President of the Florida Senate, Senator Bill Galvano. Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore is with us as well,” Murphy said.

He also recognized the other elected officials in attendance.

“Our city had two challenges facing us this year: threats to home rule in the Florida Legislature and funding to build our City Pier. Our two state legislators (Galvano and State Rep. William Robinson Jr.) were successful in helping us address both of these challenges. They supported us with home rule and they provided us with funding for the pier that you can see being built across the street,” Murphy said.

Murphy asked Galvano to come forward and be presented with a key to the city.

“On behalf of the city of Anna Maria we thank you for everything you did,” Murphy said.

Galvano said he grew up in New York and first visited Anna Maria when he was four. He said Anna Maria has always been special to him.

“I’m very proud that we have construction going on behind us and I look forward to continuing to support this area and in particular the city of Anna Maria,” Galvano said.

Murphy then noted the Manatee County Commission, the Tourist Development Council and Whitmore also played a major role in funding the pier construction.

When presenting Whitmore with a key to the city, Murphy said, “The city of Anna Maria thanks you so much for your support, and you can just look across the street to see the fruits of your labor.”

“I think he wants more money,” Whitmore joked before noting she’s lived on Anna Maria Island for 50 years and grew up on Pine Avenue.

Military recognition

Murphy directed everyone’s attention to 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion Color Guard from Tampa. Accompanied by drummer Fai Fai Ho from the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra, the Color Guard marched across the street from the direction of the pier and came to a halt by the City Pier Park flagpole.

Assisted by Public Works Manager and retired Marine Dean Jones, Sen. Galvano and his wife Julie participated in a memorial wreath ceremony commemorating those who lost their lives in service to their country, with orchestra member and trumpeter Alan Evans performing “Taps.”

Murphy recognized the spouses and significant others of those who served in the military and then asked the members of each branch of the military to step forward as the orchestra played their respective theme songs.

With the veterans standing side by side, Murphy said, “Thank you very much. I wish I had a key to the city for each one of you.”

He then recognized Sgt. Charles Sport for leading the Color Guard and presented him with a commemorative plaque.

The ceremony concluded with Maestro Leonard Murphy, a Navy veteran, leading the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra through a performance of patriotic songs that began with the “The Star-Spangled Banner” followed by “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” and several others.

While the orchestra performed, Mayor Murphy said, “I’m very pleased with the turnout and the public’s reaction. I hope we continue to put on events like this that continue to bring our community together and make people cognizant of the role the military and veterans play in maintaining our freedom.”

When asked about his own service, Murphy said, “I was Vietnam veteran. I operated a boat in the Mekong Delta in 1968 and 1969.”

In appreciation of the city staff, he said, “City staff came through with another remarkable performance. Our next event will be the Fourth of July and our Veterans Day parade in November.”

Jones estimated 500 people attended the Memorial Day Salute.