The slow, careful notes of taps blew from a lone trumpet.
Vietnam veteran Bobby Pridemore, along with dozens of veterans, rendered his salute, facing the flag with disciplined respect. All was quiet, somber, as a chill drifted through the El Jobean Community League’s pre-Veterans Awareness Day commemoration Saturday in Randy Spence Park.
“This means a lot,” said Pridemore, who said he was spit on by people he swore to protect upon returning from his two tours in Vietnam. Pridemore came out to the park with fellow members of nonprofit motorcycle organization Tokie Bobby’s Broken Bike Riding Club, which helps local veterans and encourages community service.
“Vietnam was a bad time,” said Pat Spence, whose late husband, Randy Spence, is the park’s namesake. “It’s nice to be remembered.”
The American Legion Post 110, led by commands of “left, left, left, right, left,” carried five flags, signifying each branch of the military. When the Marines were announced, a stifled “hoo-rah” came from members of the audience.
“One percent of the current population defends the other 99 percent of us,” said league president Beverly Cisco.
The Speedbumps Barbershop Quartet harmonized the national anthem as the audience held their hands on their hearts or in a salute. Veterans, league members and Charlotte County Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch gave speeches.
“Nothing can repay a veteran for the sacrifice they gave,” said guest speaker Jamie Granillo, who served in the Navy. “No amount of money or thanks can dilute the memories of war. Nothing can replace the amount of time spent away from their loved ones that remain at home, nothing can bring back lost friends and family members that died serving our country.”
A wreath was presented by Bruce and Marie Chilldres, then a statue of a saluting soldier was unveiled to Spence and her family.
“Our young people do not know, do not realize or do not appreciate the thousands and thousands of gallons of blood that was spilt to give them the opportunity to vote,” Deutsch said before he declared December 2018 as Veterans Appreciation Month for Charlotte County.
Veterans Day is Sunday.