10 Ways To Honor Veterans

If you can’t make it to a Veterans Day parade or ceremony, there are other ways to show your appreciation for the men and women who have served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces. Here are a few suggestions you can practice year-round:

A bonus suggestion: if you live with a veteran like I do, hug them and make their favorite meal for dinner. Or visit this Military Avenue link 101 Ways to Thank a Veteran for more inspiration.

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2017 Tampa Bay Veterans Day Events

The James A. Haley VA Medical Center 2016 Veterans Day Parade.

You can find Veterans Day events celebrated in the nationwide at the Department of Veterans Affairs website. And you can find a listing of dates and times for the ceremonies at National Cemeteries for all the states here.

Listed below are special ceremonies throughout the Tampa Bay region, Florida and the nation that will recognize the sacrifices of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who are currently active-duty.

Friday, Nov. 10, 2017

PASCO COUNTY SCHOOLS – 9 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. – A 4th annual district wide Veterans Day Ceremony with patriotic songs, flag demonstrations and featuring Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corely will honor veterans and encourage students to participate in the Vote in Honor of a Veteran program. The event is at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge,11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. Supervisor of Elections Outreach Ambassadors also will conduct voter registration drives at all high schools once the Veterans Day Ceremony concludes.

TAMPA JAMES A. HALEY VA PARADE – 10 a.m. – The 10th Annual Veterans Day ceremony and parade will commemorate the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, which is celebrating 30 years. A brief ceremony is set at the Fisher House followed by the parade on the medical center grounds, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa.  Free and open to the public . More than 40 veteran and civic groups will march in the parade which includes several Gasparilla Krewes and a Santa Claus Drill Team. A performance by the University of South Florida Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity is planned before the parade.  And afterward, Operation Helping Hand and Lupton’s are sponsoring a cookout.

HILLSBOROUGH COMMUNITY COLLEGE – Dale Mabry Campus – noon – Those who have served will be commemorated during a ceremony scheduled at the campus flag pole in the courtyard.

242nd MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION – 2 p.m. – The Sgt. Walter P. Ryan Detachment of the Marine Corps League invites all area Marines active, retired and former to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the U. S. Marine Corps at American Legion Post 148, 7240 US Highway 301, Riverview. The event begins at 2 p.m. with a reading of the 13th Commandant, General Lejeune’s, birthday message at 6 p.m., the singing of the Marine Corps Hymn and the cutting of the birthday cake.  Call 813-672-1778 for details.

NEW PORT RICHEY FREEDOM FEST – 5 p.m. – The two-day Freedom Fest kicks-off at Sims Park, Grand Blvd & Bank St., New Port Richey, with a dinner for invited Veterans and other dignitaries. There will be live entertainment, a kid’s zone, food and beer sales through a variety of vendors that will be open to the public.

Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017

FLORIDA STATE PARKS – Entry into all state parks is free to veterans and the general public as a tribute to Veterans Day. Here’s an interactive map to locate the state parks nearest you: https://www.floridastateparks.org/interactive-map

ST. PETERSBURG VETERANS AWARDS – 8 a.m. – Honored Veterans” is the theme for the fourth annual Veterans Day Celebration in Williams Park, corner of Fourth Street and First Avenue North, St. Petersburg.  Honored veterans for 2017 are Carrie W. Nero and Charles Claybaker. The event is free and open to the public.

OLD GLORY RELAY – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – You can watch the final leg of a journey of one flag that has traveled for 62 days and more than 4,600 miles. It’s the fourth iteration of Team Red, White & Blue’s cross-country run featuring hundreds of veterans from all branches and eras of service. In total, over 70 teams walked, ran and cycled carrying the American Flag from Seattle on September 11th to finish in Tampa on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th. That final Tampa leg starts in Citrus Park, moves south along County Road 576 eventually connecting to the Veterans Memorial Trail and down almost to MacDill AFB before turning onto Bayshore Boulevard, traveling north to downtown Tampa then east along Channelside Drive toward Brandon where the final destination is Westfield Brandon Mall for a retreat and celebration.

SARASOTA PARADE – 10 a.m. – The Sarasota Veterans’ Day Parade, with the theme “We Can Do It!” The phrase, made famous by the fictional icon Rosie the Riveter, represented the contributions of thousands of women both in the military and at home during World War II. This year’s parade and ceremony will honor those women. The parade opens at Main Street and Osprey Avenue and proceeds down Main to J. D. Hamel Park on Gulfstream. A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. after the parade ends.

CLEARWATER VETERANS DAY DEDICATION & CEREMONY – 10:30 a.m. – Hosted by the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance, the event features a tribute to Navy SEAL Danny Dietz and the dedication of State Road 60 as a Purple Heart Trail. The ceremony is at Crest Lake Park, 201 S. Glenwood Ave., Clearwater. Former Congressman David Jolly will host the event, which features speaker Cindy Dietz, a Gold Star Mother of Navy SEAL Danny Dietz, who died during a firefight in Afghanistan. Capt. Ward Sandlin, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos will also make remarks. The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to be a symbolic national network of roadways to commemorate and honor all men and women who were wounded or killed in combat while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The ceremony will also include a fly-over by the U.S. Coast Guard, entertainment and food.

AVON PARK VETERANS DAY PROGRAM – 11 a.m. – American Legion Post 69 is holding a Veterans Day ceremony to honor all those who have served in the United States Military. It’s a chance to learn about the history of Veterans Day. Post 69 is situated on almost five acres, 1301 W. Bell St., Avon Park, and sponsors the local police K-8 unit as well as the high school JROTC. Larry Roberts is service officer (850)718-7773.

BAY PINES VA CEREMONY – 11 AM – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System  will host its annual Veterans Day Ceremony in the courtyard of buildings 2 and 37 on the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd, St. Petersburg.  The event is open to all veterans, their families and friends and the general public. Highlights include guest speaker U.S. Navy Rear Adm. (Ret.) John Kirby, who now works as a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, local VA leaders and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (FL-13). Musical performances by the Keswick Christian School Choir; a special parade of colors by local Veteran Service Organizations and the playing of taps. A shuttle service will be available to provide transportation from parking lots to the ceremony area.

BUSHNELL FLORIDA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 11 AM – A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned in the Assembly Area. Seating is limited, so you’re encouraged to bring chairs or blankets. Florida National Cemetery, 6502 SW 102nd Ave., Bushnell, FL.

HILLSBOROUGH VETERANS MEMORIAL CEREMONY  – 11 a.m. – The 53rd Annual Veterans Day of Remembrance ceremony has the theme of “Honoring America’s Veterans,” and feature speakers Col. S. Troy Pananon, Vice Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base; Col. Jim Waurishuk, USAF, Retired; There will be a POW/MIA Missing Man Ceremony, rifle salute, and taps. And JROTC students from several high schools will perform exhibition drills. The event at the Veterans Memorial Park and LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, 3602 N. U.S. Highway 301, Tampa. The tribue is free and open to the public. Visitors may bring lawn chairs, enjoy patriotic music, and stay for refreshments following the ceremony.

TEMPLE TERRACE VETERAN EVENT – 11 a.m. – The City of Temple Terrace will observe Veterans Day during the Temple Terrace Arts and Crafts Festival, hosted by the Temple Terrace Arts Council at Newly-Woodmont Park, 407 Woodmont Ave.

SARASOTA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 3 p.m. – A Veterans’ Day ceremony is planned at Patriot Plaza. 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.

VETERANS ART CENTER TAMPA BAY – Noon – 4 p.m. – “The Art of Remembrance”  is an event scheduled to honor veterans and first responders through art, music and community. The VACTB is located at 6798 Crosswinds Drive North, B106, St. Petersburg.

BOK TOWER VETERANS CONCERT – 1 & 3 p.m. – Two Veteran’s Day Carillon Concerts – a musical salute of gratitude by carillonneur Geert D’hollander – is open to the public. It’s free admission for military veterans and active-duty with a valid ID.

NEW PORT RICHEY PARADE & THROW DOWN  – 3 p.m. & 6 p.m. – It’s the first ever Veterans Day Parade for the city of New Port Richey that begins at Sims Park, Grand Blvd & Bank St.,  led by a fly-over of veteran aircraft.  Following the parade, the Veterans Alternative’s 3rd Annual Boxing Throw-Down will take place at 6 p.m. The Boxing Throw-Down is a separate, ticketed event, and tickets can be purchased through Veterans Alternative. Vendors, live music, entertainment, and family activities are also planned.

CARROLLWOOD VETERANS CONCERT & MOVIE – 4 p.m. – A Veteran’s Day Concert & Movie in the park, presented by the Carrollwood Village HOAs, starts with a free concert and is followed with festivities and the showing of the movie “Hollywood Canteen” at 6 p.m. at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Rd., Tampa.

BRANDON OLD GLORY PARADE – 5:00-8:00 p.m. – A parade and celebration welcoming Team RWB is planned at the Westfield Brandon Mall, 459 Brandon Town Center Dr., Brandon. Highlights include live entertainment with special MC Roxanne Wilder, Q105 Radio, Military Exhibits, Health & Fitness Demonstrations. Family Crafts & Activities, Food & Beverage Sampling, Interactive Art Display & Photo Opportunities and giveaways.

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Sunday – Nov. 12, 2017

FLORIDA MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ART  – 2 p.m. – “Florida and World War II” is the topic of this Veterans Day Weekend lecture by Gary Mormino, PhD. The FMoPA is located at 400 N. Ashley Drive, Cube 200, Tampa. There will be free admission to all veterans and their families as well as museum members on Saturday and Sunday. Non-members are asked to give a donation.

ST. PETERSBURG CONCERT HONORS VETERANS – 7 p.m. Una Voce, the Gay Men’s Chorus, honors veterans with a performance of the “Testament of Freedom” at the Palladium, 253 5th Ave N, St. Petersburg. Admission is free for veterans and those with military ID for Sunday.  Tickets are available at www.mypalladium.org.

 

Monday – Nov. 13, 2017

BAY PINES VETERANS TOWN HALL – 4-6 p.m. – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) and St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, will host a Veterans town hall meeting in the J.C. Cobb room located on the first floor of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center (building 100) located at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., Bay Pines. VA leaders will provide updates. Veterans and their families will have an opportunity to comment publicly about VA programs and services. Click here for driving directions and a campus map.

 

Free Offerings and Discounts 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, 2017 Veterans Day. A list of Retail Deals and Discounts is available here.

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.

 

Marine Corps 242nd Birthday Celebration

USMC logoThe Sgt Walter P Ryan Detachment of the Marine Corps League in Riverview Florida has a 242nd Birthday Bash to honor the US Marine Corps on November 4, 2017.

Colonel Steve Emerson USMC Retired will be the guest speaker. Cocktails will be served beginning at 6 p.m. followed by the ceremony and dinner at 7 p.m. at American Legion Post 148, 7240 US Highway 301, Riverview, FL. 

At the conclusion of the meal the Detachment will announce the selection of their Marine of the Year and Associate of the Year. The cost is $15.00 and reservations may be made by contacting Larry Westcott at 813-817-0381.

A Memorial Ceremony For Military Suicide Survivors

This is the third year the American Legion Post 5, 3810 W. Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, is reaching out to family members and friends who have lost a veteran or military member to suicide.

The hope is to give an opportunity to remember loved ones, to honor their service to the country and to erase the stigma surrounding service members who have died by suicide.

“This event and message will focus on family members and friends who silently suffer the lost of their loved one to their battle with their inner demons,” stated Ellsworth “Tony” Williams, a retired Army combat veteran and chair of the American Legion Florida 15th District Veteran Affairs and Rehab.

The ceremony is Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 1 p.m. at Post 5, 3810 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL.

Artist, Author, Former President Bush Visits MacDill AFB

Former President George W. Bush painting one of 66 portraits he produced for his new book. Photo courtesy of The Bush Center.

Former President George W. Bush painting one of 66 portraits he produced for his new book. Photo courtesy of The Bush Center.

The 43rd president appeared on the Today Show Monday to kick off his book tour and is following that with an appearance at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base in the afternoon with a book signing.

He won’t take questions from media. However, former President George W. Bush will autograph pre-purchased copies of his book at MacDill’s Surf’s Edge Club.

It’s been eight years since Bush has occupied the White House. And among his many pursuits he has picked up brush and started painting.

He has become rather prolific producing 66 portraits of military veterans for his book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. Many of the men and women are wounded physically or with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress. Bush paints their portraits and writes the story of their service.

The book’s title riffs off of the Pulitzer-winning book, Profiles in Courage, written in 1956 by former President John F. Kennedy while he was a U.S. Senator and after his distinguished career as a U.S. Naval officer during World War II. Kennedy’s book features eight profiles of men he felt showed extraordinary political courage.

Proceeds from Bush’s book will be given to his foundation, the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, which supports transitioning military members offering help with employment and resources.

Growing A Community Of Farmer Veterans

Raising chickens is one of many skills veterans will learn at the Veterans Garden under construction in Tampa.

Raising chickens is one of many skills veterans will learn at the Veterans Garden under construction in Tampa.

There’s a growing movement to help veterans transition from the battlefield to a more bucolic setting. Whether it’s a community agriculture initiative or a functioning farm – researchers are finding that raising food can offer veterans both a therapeutic and an economic value.

A garden where veterans can learn to work the land and grow food is under construction at The Sustainable Living Project, on Sligh Avenue, just across from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. Continue reading

67 Percent Question If Military Absentee Ballots Get Counted

The Golden Knights fly a Federal Voting Assistance Program banner promoting absentee voting. Credit: FVAP

The Golden Knights fly a Federal Voting Assistance Program banner promoting absentee voting. Credit: FVAP

In 2000, the Florida ballots of overseas service members were a key point of controversy in the Bush vs. Gore election.  Now, 16 years later, little has changed for most overseas troops, who still have to vote absentee mostly through international mail.

Florida lawmakers did create a task force this year to study developing an online voting system for military and overseas voters. But task for members aren’t expected to meet until after the 2016 November election.

However, a handful of other states are experimenting with more modern electronic ballot return.

If you’re active duty military on base, aboard ship or in a combat zone, absentee voting can be a complex process because each state has its own regulations.

So, the Department of Defense created the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) to simplify access. But director Matt Boehmer said many service members remain frustrated with the process.

“One of the things that our active duty military told us was the fact that 67 percent of them weren’t confident that their ballot was counted,” Boehmer said referring to a 2014 post-election survey. “Certainly that 67 percent number gets people’s attention and it certainly got my attention.”

Courtesy: Army.mil

Courtesy: Army.mil

All states are required to provide overseas voters an electronic ballot. All 50 do so by email and online. Most offer faxed ballots and paper ballots can still be requested.

But returning a voted absentee overseas ballot is where it gets tricky. Eighteen states require ballots to be returned only through the mail. The other 32 allow some form of electronic return but it varies widely.

For instance, Florida accepts overseas ballots only by mail or fax.

“If you’re in a Forward Operation Base in the middle of the mountains in Afghanistan there’s no option to fax,” said U.S. Army veteran Diego Echeverri. “And you’re not going to have a scanner, you’re not going to have these devices.”

Echeverri served in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004 and is Florida director for the advocacy group, Concerned Veterans for America (CV4A).

Dan Caldwell, CV4A vice president of communications and policy, is an Iraq War veteran. He said their generation expects the ease of electronic voting.

“If troops can Skype overseas in most locations now with their family members, then they should be able to find a way to securely and secretly vote,” Caldwell said. “And I think that can work. I think we have the technology to do it. It just requires some government bureaucrats to get off their butts and actually do it.”

Courtesy: FVAP and MacDill Air Force Base

Courtesy: FVAP and MacDill Air Force Base

But it’s not just bureaucrats; state lawmakers decide their states’ election rules.

And it’s a balancing act between giving voters the convenience of online access versus protecting the integrity of their ballot.

“We’ve got legislators who are very interested in meeting the needs of military members,” said Wendy Underhill, program director for elections and redistricting with the National Conference of State Legislatures. “They are younger. They are used to using electronic interactions for every single thing in their life, and so, there is that push against the security.”

Four states do provide online voting to limited groups like military personnel in combat zones. Alaska is the first state to allow everyone to vote online. Yet, Underhill says the Alaska process is not all that simple.

“Not only do they cast their ballot online, they have to printout a voter identification certificate and something else and get it signed by themselves and a couple of witnesses. And then, scan that back in and send it too. And so it’s not that it’s an easy process,” Underhill said.

Looking at the bigger picture, 56 percent of active duty military, in the 2014 FVAP survey, said the process to get an absentee ballot was too complicated and confusing.

FVAP_image_montage

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