It’s never too late to say thank you and this past Sunday evening the Lions Club of Miami Springs did just that. Local military veterans gathered for an evening in their honor.
One by one the Miami Springs Lions began arriving, ready for an evening of service. Lions were prepared to shower gratitude and honor upon some deserving United States veterans, who were treated like VIPs for the evening.
The aroma of a delicious dinner filled the air and flower bouquets of red and white adorned the tables. The American flag stood proudly, front and center in the room, and small American flags were scattered throughout. As veterans and their families arrived, they enjoyed appetizers and drinks and tapped their feet to the beat of familiar favorites.
With more than 60 people in attendance, all five branches of the United States Armed Forces were well represented. Past Lions Club President Doris Sauer took to the mic. Sauer welcomed guests and thanked them for their service. Busy volunteers stopped their tasks, came out of the kitchen, and joined in for the Pledge of Allegiance. Head Chef and Lions Club member Bob Jones led the crowd by singing “God Bless America.” More than sweet-smelling aromas and sounds filled the air. American pride filled the room.
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“I didn’t receive much of a welcome home when I returned from war,” said Al Melaragno, longtime Miami Springs resident and WWII veteran. “They had a big parade in New York, but I came through the Boston Airport. There was one lady from the Red Cross waiting for me. She had a gallon of milk and a doughnut. I was happy to get it, but that was my welcome home. This evening, this special dinner hosted by the Lions Club, is like my welcome home.”
As guests enjoyed the meal, they traded stories and conversations, touching tales of heroic acts, memories of veterans who have proudly served and sacrificed for their great country.
“We’re all touched that we had such a nice turnout and the appreciation that was shown to us,” Sauer said. “We are honored to host this event. It was a team effort by our Lions Club. Everybody that could, helped to make it a success. Jim Borgmann was the icing on the cake. He was so gracious to come and provide music for our enjoyment.”
The room was filled with heroes and a few heroines, too. They each had their story; stories upon stories. They were all willing to share; one simply had to ask.
One of those heroines in attendance was 94-year-old John Hall Hatfield. Hatfield served in WWII as a battlefield nurse. She specialized in head injuries. The twinkle in her eye and the smile upon her face captivate any audience. “I was in my 20s taking care of young men who were just 18 or 19,” Hatfield said. “They would tell me, you shouldn’t be here honey, and I would say to them, but aren’t you glad I am? Those young men weren’t crying out to God in those moments, they were crying out for their momma.”
Other veterans in attendance included Miami Springs City Manager Ron Gorland and Miami Springs Vice Mayor Jaime Petralanda, to mention a few.
“Many thanks to the Lions Club members for the honor of allowing my wife, Maria, and me to participate in this solidarity assemblage of war veterans and for their selfless act of bravery during military service,” said Petralanda. “The Veterans Dinner at the Miami Springs Lions Club was filled with a familial sense of community and comradeship. As each member shared their time served, war involvement and brief stories of combat engagement, an assemblage of inherent solidarity permeated throughout the evening from each war veteran.”
As guests finished their cheesecake and coffee and the evening came to an end, Lions said good night to their honorary guests and the cleanup work began. There was an overwhelming sense of gratitude and camaraderie. All in attendance would agree with Lions Club President Bill Windrem: “The evening was a success,” he said. “This is just one of a number of events that we do that’s the right thing. Honoring our veterans, it’s simply the right thing to do.”