ANNA MARIA – The city’s seventh annual Old Soldiers & Sailors Veterans Day parade and post-parade recognition ceremony honored military veterans and their spouses on Friday.
The parade traveled down Pine Avenue and ended at City Pier Park, where the recognition ceremony took place.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Dep. Patrick Manning and his wife, Corrie, served as this year’s grand marshals. Manning recently left the Sheriff Office’s Anna Maria unit for another assignment. In 2007, he retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a major.
The parade featured five high school marching bands, a Marine Corps color guard, military veterans, first responders, local junior ROTC battalions, a group of children representing The Center, local politicians and business owners, the Anna Maria Island Privateers, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders and more.
The parade attendees included 100-year- old Bradenton resident Elizabeth Schultz, who served as an Army nurse in England during World War II. Her brothers also served in that war.
As the parade passed by her location in front of Roser Memorial Community Church, Schultz shouted, “Thank you and God bless you” to the parade participants.
The recognition ceremony under the City Pier Park shade sail structure was led by Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, who ran an Army gunboat in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War in 1968-69.
The ceremony featured an invocation by Bishop Michael Garrison, a flyover featuring a U.S. Coast Guard plane and helicopter, a U.S. Marine Corps color guard and children from The Center presenting military spouses with yellow roses and thank you cards made by the youngsters. Junior ROTC members also presented flags and commemorative medals to the veterans as they were recognized according to the military branch in which they served.
The ceremony also featured the Lakewood Ranch High School band performing “The Star Spangled Banner,” “American the Beautiful” and “The Horse.”
During the ceremony, Murphy thanked the many city staff members who made the Veterans Day events possible with a preparation process that was briefly interrupted by Tropical Storm Nicole the day before.
After the ceremony, Murphy shared his thoughts on the day.
“It was a great parade and a great ceremony. I’m very pleased with the turnout we had today and I’m looking forward to our next patriotic event on Memorial Day. These types of events bring our community together. Neighbors get to see neighbors – sometimes they’re meeting new neighbors and sometimes they’re renewing old acquaintances. The parades we host in Anna Maria help create a hometown feel that harkens back to the past,” Murphy said.
“This is our biggest parade we’ve had yet, with more bands and more participants. We had
to dodge a hurricane and some stormy weather this morning. The weather was beautiful this afternoon and we had a great crowd. It’s heartwarming to see all these people thanking our veterans and spouses for their service and sacrifices. This is a feel-good, patriotic moment,” he said.
When asked about the first-time participation of the junior ROTC members, Murphy said, “I think it’s very important that young people participate and see veterans being recognized for their service. These young people are the future and some of them will have to step up in the future to defend our country. It’s good that they can witness what’s going on here today. It’s an important day and an important moment.”
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chris Gaines was among the youngest veterans to attend Friday’s ceremony, as he does every year.
“It was fantastic. I’m glad they honored everybody, including the veteran’s wives and families,” Gaines said.
“The parade gets better every year. I can’t wait until next year. It’s amazing how Veterans Day is so celebrated these days. It’s long overdue. I’m glad they recognized the veterans. That’s the most important thing,” Manning said. Regarding his first experience as a parade grand marshal, he said, “It went by too fast.”
Army Vietnam War veteran Dennis Kretzler drove the Jeep that carried the grand marshals down the parade route.
“It was awesome. It was beautiful,” he said of the parade and the ceremony.
Peggy Kuehn appreciated the recognition given to military spouses.
“That was very moving. My husband, Bill, was an Army vet and he passed away 11 months ago tomorrow,” she said.
The recognition ceremony was followed by a free ice cream social held just up the street at the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum.