For folks who work in banks and other businesses that were closed last Monday and perhaps all the kids who were off from school, it may have just been a day off from the daily grind and monotony.
But for those who have served the country in military service, Veterans Day was anything but a day off. It was a day that anyone who wore the uniform will tell you stirs up a gamut of emotions.
And the City of Miami Springs was front and center at 10 a.m. this past Monday when a large tent was erected in front of the War Memorial Monument on the center median just off the Circle. Decked out with flags, a tent off to the side where rec director Omar Luna was assigned to play patriotic tunes, the veterans of the Miami Springs and Virginia Gardens area were honored.
Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia served as master of ceremonies and many speakers approached the podium for an event that lasted nearly 90 minutes.
Following the national anthem with the Miami Springs Police Department presenting the colors, Grace Lutheran Pastor Dave Imhoff offered an opening prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance performed by Local Girl Scout troop #594.
Bill Tallman, who lost his father at the age of 10 in a 1982 military training accident, brought his two sons, Mason and Avery, up to do their thing. Mason sung “God Bless America” before Avery stepped up and recited “Flanders Field.”
Numerous veterans present and recognized were Joe Buonassi (WWII), who is part of a military family, including son Joe Jr., who served in Vietnam; Virginia Gardens councilman and Vietnam vet Richard Block; former Miami Springs councilman and WWII vet Jim Caudle; Vietnam vets Ben Badger, Dick Bergen, Eric Richey; and other vets Greg Levinson, Ralph Wakefield, along with retired Navy chief Eli Munoz.
The guest of honor for the day was WWII veteran and longtime Springs resident Norman Andresen. The father-in-law of former city manager Jim Borgmann, Andresen was given the honor of laying the wreath at the base of the veterans monument while “Taps” was being played.
“The remarkable thing is that as I look at that monument, I was the head contractor when we constructed it back in, I believe, the early ’60s,” said Andresen. “I think I might be the only one still alive that was involved in building this. I’m proud to be a part of it and very happy that the City of Miami Springs has put together such a fine tribute to the veterans.”
Perhaps the event is nearest and dearest to the heart of Miami Springs city manager Ron Gorland, who went through his “year of hell” in the late ’60s, serving in combat on the front lines of Vietnam.
It was primarily Gorland, when he became assistant city manager years back, who revitalized the city’s Veterans Day ceremony, which had fizzled in previous years.
“I’m not really sure what happened but I knew that this was something very important that the city needed to do on an annual basis,” said Gorland. “Whether or not you support or do not support war, everybody owes a debt of gratitude to those who either have served or are still serving. Whether you’re a cook in the Army or battling on the front lines, everyone is sacrificing and we can never lose sight of that.”
“I think of the 16 million that served in WWII, there are maybe a million of us left and I guess we’re all in our 80s and 90s now,” said Buonassi. “I’m not a proponent of war unless we are the ones getting attacked.”
“Perhaps forgotten in all of this are the families,” said Block. “With all of the domestic issues going on, we need to take care of the spouses and kids. They are the ones taking the brunt of this and we all need to ‘adopt a family’ in some way, shape or form.”
Richey took to the podium to kick off his private funding campaign for the renovation of the Roy S. Geiger Memorial on the corner of Curtiss Parkway and Deer Run. The idea is to build a base for the existing tower and Richey had a table set up and was accepting donations.
In one final gesture of homage to the vets, Garcia called up all of the young kids and teenagers to the monument, followed by some of the military vets in uniform.
“I know today is your day off from school and you don’t want homework but I’m giving each of you an assignment,” said Garcia. “I want each of you when I am done to go over there and shake their hand and say, thank you. We need our young kids to understand the value of service to their country.”
“What’s really critical nowadays is to not forget,” said Gorland. “We’re just forgetting too much and have too many servicemen that just aren’t being treated right when they’re finished. Too many out of homes, too many that can’t get jobs far exceeds the general population in percentage terms. It makes no sense. So it’s more than, ‘Let’s not forget,’ it’s, ‘Lets do something about it.’ And that’s the message we’re trying to get out.”