World War I Veterans Remembered With Wreaths

American gunners battle through the Argonne Forest.
(NARA, 111-SC-95980)

I had an interview this morning at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA on a topic far removed from the United States’ entry into World War I.

But I couldn’t help but reflect on the 100th anniversary of the day the U.S. officially entered that global conflict in 1917. At the VA, I passed by the bus stop where two WWII veterans were waiting for a ride. They were easily identified by their ball caps declaring their veteran status.

I over heard one veteran say to the other, “Well they’re about to get back in it again over there, from what I hear.”

I can only speculate that the veteran was referring to Syria or somewhere else on the globe. But it reminded me that the subtitle to World War I was “The war to end all wars.” That’s a variation of an H.G. Wells’ article according to Mental

… the British futurist writer H.G. Wells wrote in an article titled “The War That Will End War,” published in The Daily News on August 14, 1914. Commonly cited as “the war to end all wars” or a similar variant, the phrase was quickly adopted as a slogan to explain British and later American participation in the war…

But no matter the war, there will always be veterans and casualties. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration is hosting wreath-laying ceremonies the week of April 6 to commemorate the 353,082 World War I Veterans interred in VA sites across the country. A list, by state, of the ceremonies planned at National Cemeteries is available here.

On April 6, 1917, Congress voted to declare war on the German Empire. When the war ended Nov. 11, 1918, more than 2 million Americans had served.

WWII Silent Heroes Brought To Life By Younger Generation

Omaha Beach in the background where Pvt. Leo Chalcraft is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, on September 27, 2013, at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. (Photo by Warrick Page - American Battle Monuments Commission)

Omaha Beach in the background where Pvt. Leo Chalcraft is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, on September 27, 2013, at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. (Photo by Warrick Page – American Battle Monuments Commission)

Army Private Leo Kenneth Chalcraft was a green-eyed, brown-haired teen from St. Petersburg, FL when he was killed in action in World War II.

It happened just six days after his 19th birthday.

Today, his grave is among the 9,387 military dead buried in France at the Normandy American Cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach. There, 72 years ago this June 6, U.S. troops stormed the beaches on D-Day, marking the beginning of the end of World War II.

“He was so young and I feel like he didn’t get to experience a lot of his life,” said Konner Ross, a 17-year-old who lives in Largo, near St. Petersburg. Continue reading

WWII Women Pilots Can Now Rest In Peace At Arlington

Women Airforce Service pilots Frances Green, Margaret "Peg" Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn, leave their B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft, "Pistol Packin' Mama," during ferry training at Lockbourne Army Airfield, Ohio, 1944. Air Force photo

Women Airforce Service pilots Frances Green, Margaret “Peg” Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn, leave their B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft, “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” during ferry training at Lockbourne Army Airfield, Ohio, 1944. Air Force photo

More than 70 years after the end of World War II, Congress finally passed a measure that President Barack Obama signed on Friday allowing Women Airforce Service Pilots the honor of having their ashes buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The law overturns an Army decision that exclude the female pilots. According to the Military Times nearly 1,100 women served from 1942 to 1944, ferrying airplanes, training combat pilots and towing airborne targets. Thirty-eight died during training and support missions.

Their recognition and cause became one of the few bipartisan congressional efforts so far this year. You can read the full article here.

A Memorial Day For Military, Veterans Killed By Suicide

Ellsworth Tony Williams veterans counseling veterans

Ellsworth “Tony” Williams, founder and CEO of Veterans Counseling Veterans.

The nation will remember those killed while serving their country on Memorial Day in just over a week. But a local group called Veterans Counseling Veterans wants people to think about another kind of Memorial Day – one honoring those who served in uniform and died by suicide — and is planning such as service this Sunday in Tampa at American Legion Post 5.

The Veterans Counseling Veterans memorial service is an example of the many different efforts to eliminate the stigma of suicide and improve veteran suicide prevention from Congress to local counselors.

One of the challenges some advocates say they face is a number: 22. A 2012 VA report estimated 22 vets a day die by suicide, and it’s often quoted in media reports. But that data is questionable because it didn’t include all 50 states. And it’s mistakenly associated with only Post 9-11 veterans. Continue reading

Florida Teen Selected To Write Eulogy For WWII Silent Hero

leo k chalcraft

U.S. Army Private Leo K. Chalcraft drowned off the coast of Normandy Christmas Eve 1944, just weeks after turning 19.

The toughest writing assignment 16-year-old Konner Ross will have this year is to write a eulogy for a young man she’s never met. But there’s a part of him the Largo High School junior never forget – his green eyes.

“They have his wallet from when they found it on the beach and on his identification card, it says (he has) green eyes and brown hair,” Ross said. “I didn’t know he had green eyes until then. So, that seems like something small, but it was really cool to learn for some reason.”

Ross is describing U.S. Army Private Leo K. Chalcraft, a St. Petersburg native drafted to serve in World War II. He drowned off the coast of France in 1944 on Christmas Eve, just weeks after turning 19. Continue reading

World War I Memorial Dedication Saturday In Tampa, FL

Artistic concepts of the World War I Memorial being dedicated at Hillsborough County's Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday.

Artistic concepts of the World War I Memorial being dedicated at Hillsborough County’s Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday.

It was supposed to be “The War To End All Wars.” But World War I lasted more than four years, July 1914 to November 1918. More than 20 million soldiers died, either killed in action or by disease, and another 21 million were wounded.

The red poppy which bloomed on the battlefields in Belgium, France and Gallipoli became the symbol of remembrance for those killed.

But the WWI soldiers from Hillsborough County can rest assured that they will not be forgotten.

On Saturday, May 7, 2016, a World War I Memorial will be dedicated in their honor at the Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park, 3602 U.S. 301 N., Tampa.

Red poppies will be handed out, a military historian will deliver comments and the colors will be presented at the ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m. The event is open to the public.

2015 Veterans Day Events In Tampa Bay

flag_homeThroughout the Tampa Bay region, Florida and the nation, special ceremonies are planned to recognize the sacrifice of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who are currently serving. You can find the Veterans Day events nearest you at a Department of Veterans Affairs website or check the listings below.

And if you can’t make it to a ceremony or parade, there are alternative opportunities to honor a veteran year-round, check them out.

Wednesday, Nov. 11 – Veterans Day

ALL FLORIDA STATE PARKS – To celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11, entry into all state parks is free to veterans and the general public (with the exception of the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park) as a tribute to Veterans Day. Here’s an interactive map to locate the state parks nearest you:

PINELLAS COUNTY PARKS – how The parking fees at county parks on Veterans Day is beign waived to show appreciation for local veterans and their families. The offer applies to all visitors: all county boat ramps, Howard Park in Tarpon Springs, Sand Key Park in Clearwater and Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde. Other county managed parks offer free parking daily. A list of Pinellas County parks is available at

SARASOTA – ROBARTS ARENA – 7 AM – The 2nd Annual Veteran’s Day Breakfast, at 3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, FL, features keynote speaker retired General Charles Shugg, a music medley and Vietnam Vets who will receive a commemorative pin in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The breakfast benefits the Sarasota Kiwanis Foundation and Goodwill Manasota’s Veterans Services Program. $25 per person. Register at 941-925-2970 or

ST. PETERSBURG – WILLIAMS PARK – 8 AM – The 2nd Annual Veterans Day Celebration featuring patriotic songs from the Gibbs High School Pinellas County Center for the Arts Choir, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and honored military veteran Willie Rogers, who served as a Master Sergeant for the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. The ceremony is planned in front of the Veteran’s Memorial at Williams Park, 1st Avenue and 4th Street N., St. Petersburg, FL.

NEW PORT RICHEY – RIVER RIDGE CENTER FOR THE ARTS – 9 AM – The Pasco County School District is holding a district-wide Veterans Day Ceremony featuring keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, the River Ridge ROTC, Pasco County Schools veteran alumnus and music provided by River Ridge Middle and High Schools, and the Cypress Elementary School Chorus. Winner of the Pasco Constitutional Officers Essay Contest will be announced. The event to honor and celebrate is at River Ridge Center for the Arts, 11646 Town Center Rd., New Port Richey.

TAMPA – PORT TAMPA BAY TERMINAL #2 – 9 AM-1 PM – Operation: REVEILLE – an event for veterans who are homeless – brings together a range of resources and organizations to help veterans with housing, employment, health benefits and other services. The goal is to connect 50 homeless veterans with housing on Veterans Day. The event is planned at Terminal #2, 651 Channelside Drive, and cosponsored by Hillsborough County, the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative and the city of Tampa. Details on the program are available at

SARASOTA – DOWNTOWN – 10 AM – The Sarasota Veterans’ Day Parade with the theme “When Duty Calls,” starts at Main Street and Osprey Avenue and proceeds down Main Street to J. D. Hamel Park on Gulfstream. A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned around 11:00 a.m. after the completion of the parade. The special guest speaker is Army Col. (retired) Stephan D. Cork, the original commandant of Sarasota Military Academy. Sponsored by the Sarasota Patriotic Observance Committee.

TAMPA – JAMES A. HALEY VA10 am – The 8th Annual Veterans Day ceremony and parade, classic car show and Welcome Home event, on the hospital campus, 13000 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa, FL. There will be a brief ceremony in front of the Fisher House. The parade follows immediately after. The parade has 70 units. Col. Daniel H. Tulley, Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida is the key note speaker and former Army Paratrooper and military contractor Rick Cicero, is this year’s grand marshal. After the parade, Operation Helping Hand is sponsoring a cookout with hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad and chips, and USF is sponsoring the desserts.

VENICE – PATRIOT’S PARK – 10 AM – A ceremony, sponsored by the Marine Corps League 643 of Nokomis, will include the presentation of the colors, the Venice Police, Venice H.S. Marine Corps JROTC plus the Sun Coast Wind Ensemble. The observation is at 800 Venetia Bay Blvd., just off Route 41 south of Roberts Bay on the east side. Following the ceremony all veterans are invited back to the American Legion NO-VEL Post 159 in Venice for the Veteran’s Day Open House. 1770 E. Venice Ave., Venice.

BAY PINES VA 11 AM – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System  will host its annual Veterans Day Ceremony in the courtyard located buildings 2 and 37 on the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd, Bay Pines, FL.  The event is open to all Veterans, their family and friends, and the general public. Highlights include guest speakers from VA, MacDill Air Force Base and U.S. Rep. David W. Jolly, and musical performances by the Florida Orchestra and the Keswick Christian School Choir; a special parade of colors provided by local Veteran Service Organizations; and traditional military including a taps performance. A shuttle service will be available to provide transportation for guests from parking lots to the ceremony area.

BUSHNELL – FLORIDA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 11 AM – Keynote speaker Don Hahnfeldt, a retired Navy veteran and chairman of the Sumter County Commission, is a highlight of the Veterans Day Ceremony moderated by Steve Jerve of WFLA-TV and with music by the Pasco High School Band. Seating is limited so you’re encouraged to bring chairs or blankets. Florida National Cemetery, 6502 SW 102nd Ave., Bushnell, FL.

HILLSBOROUGH VETERANS MEMORIAL PARK – 11 AM – The Annual Veterans Day of Remembrance ceremony will highlight JROTC students from several high schools including Bloomingdale, Chamberlain, Hillsborough, Middleton, Newsome and Riverview scheduled. The presentation includes students performing exhibition drills, presenting poems, and leading participants in the Pledge of Allegiance. The event at the Veterans Memorial Park, 3602 N. U.S. Highway 301, Tampa, FL, is free and open to the public.

SAINT LEO UNIVERSITY – 11 AM to 4 PM – A ceremony and service projects will mark Veterans Day starting with a ceremony with keynote speaker Major General James S. Hartsell, USMC, at the Student Community Center followed by several student service projects: the Peace Paper Project from 12:30-4 PM; Theta Phi Alpha sorority “Sending Kisses to the Troops” care package project 12:30-4 PM; The Circle of Veterans providing resources and information for veterans 12:30-4 PM. A performance by the J2 Band will run from 1:30-4 PM. The campus is located at 33701 State Road 52, four miles east of Interstate 75 (Exit 285) in the town of Saint Leo. Parking is available in the campus garage.The events are free and open to all veterans, active military, and the local community.

SARASOTA – ISLAND PARK – NOON – Florida Veterans for Common Sense will participate in the Sarasota Veterans Day Parade and Ceremony and follow it up with a picnic to build camaraderie among its members at Island Park, 5 Bayfront Dr, Sarasota, FL, Set-up is on the south side of the park. Bring your own picnic food and some to share as well as seating and portable tables. Contact Mike Burns at :

LONG BOAT KEY – 2:30 PM – A Veterans Day Parade, starting at Bay Isles Road (behind the Publix) to Temple Beth Israel, 567 Bay Isles Rd, will feature a VFW Color Guard, Fire Truck, and Marching Band. A program of “Memorable Moments” is planned at the end of the parade followed by refreshments for participants. More info at:,

SARASOTA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 2:45 PM – Opening ceremonies followed by the Annual Veteran’s Day Mass at 3 p.m. with Bishop Frank J. Dewane.  The service honors the men and women who have served our country and are serving us today. There will be ample seating and parking. Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72 (Clark Road), Sarasota, FL.

LARGO CENTRAL PARK – 5 PM – The city of Largo is presenting a ceremony with a keynote speaker, music and a color guard presentation is free and open to the public at the Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive, Largo.

TAMPA – WATER WORKS PARK – 5:30 PM – A free Veterans Day Observance and Patriotic Concert, hosted by the city of Tampa, 1710 Highland Ave., Tampa, FL. It will feature members from MacDill Air Force Base, U.S. Central Command and entertainment by the Eastern Hillsborough Community Band, as well as a salute to veterans and local Medal of Honor recipients. The event will also feature a display of several pieces of vintage military equipment stationed within the park.

SARASOTA HIGH SCHOOL – 7 PM – The Singing Sailors from Sarasota High School host a free, Veterans Salute concert with a guest choir from Booker Middle School. The public concert is at Sarasota High Auditorium, admission. 1000 S. School Ave., Sarasota, FL.

TAMPA – UNIVERISTY OF TAMPA – 7:30 PM – A free concert of American music featuring organist Ryan Hebert and celebrating those who served in the Armed Forces is planned at the UT Sykes Chapel, 401 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

SAINT LEO UNIVERSITY – 8-10 PM – Moonlight Madness highlighting a student veteran color guard, a national anthem soloist and a mental toughness challenge game is planned on campus at the Marion Bowman Activities Center, 33701 State Road 52, four miles east of Interstate 75 (Exit 285) in the town of Saint Leo. The event is free and open to all veterans, active military, and the local community.

Thursday – Nov. 12

TAMPA – PORT TAMPA BAY TERMINAL #2 – 9 AM-1 PM – A Job Fair and free classes on how to conduct a job search are open to veterans and persons with disabilities. The Mayor’s Alliance for Persons with Disabilities is sponsoring the event with 29 employers that are looking to hire veterans. It’s being held at Port Tampa Bay Terminal 2, 651 Channelside Dr., Tampa, FL. You can pre-register at

SARASOTA HIGH SCHOOL – 7 PM – The Singing Sailors from Sarasota High School host a free, Veterans Salute concert with a guest choir from McIntosh and Sarasota middle schools. The public concert is at Sarasota High Auditorium, admission. 1000 S. School Ave., Sarasota, FL.

Friday, Nov. 13

NEW PORT RICHEY – VET CENTER 8:45 AM-4:15 PMA full day of free sessions for veterans and their family members is being offered at the Pasco County Vet Center, 5139 Deer Park Drive in New Port Richey, FL.  The seminar starts with a session on Readjustment Counseling Services, followed every hour with a new topic: VA Home Based Primary Care/Medical Foster Homes, Veteran Burial Benefits, Elder Law & Changes to Caregiver Benefits, a free lunch, VA Claims, Veteran Preference and How to Use It, Employment, VA Mortgage/Real Estate. There’s only room for 30 at each session so pre-registration is requested. Call 727/372-1854.

Saturday, Nov. 14

TAMPA – RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM – 7 PM – The University of South Florida Tillman Scholars and other military veterans will be recognized at half-time at this year’s Salute to Service Football Game featuring the University of South Florida vs Temple. The USF Office of Veterans Services has partnered with USF’s Athletic Department to sponsor this event.

Free Offerings for Veterans & Active-Duty Military

RESTAURANTS – From Applebee’s to Village Inn – Military.Com has a full, national listing of restaurants offering free meals or discounts to veterans and active-duty military on Nov. 11, 2015 Veterans Day. You can check-out the list and links.

HART BUS RIDES – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will offer free rides to U.S. military veterans on Veterans Day, and to all members of the armed services, both active and retired, as well as to their family members and dependents. Riders are asked to show a valid military or veterans ID card when boarding any HART bus to qualify for a free ride. This offer is not valid for use of HARTPlus service or the TECO Line Streetcar System.

ATTRACTIONS & MUSEUMS – Several museums and local attractions are offering free admission to military personnel from active-duty to retired veterans and discounts for additional guests and family. You can check-out the Veterans Day admission offerings.

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