Haines City “Never Too Busy for Veterans” on Memorial Day
by James Coulter
A few days ago, while visiting a local eatery for lunch, Haines City Vice Mayor Jayne Hall saw a veteran sitting all by himself. She went over to him to thank him for his service. He, in turn, thanked her for thanking her, and he invited her to have lunch with him.
“I was about to tell him I was busy, but I stopped myself,” Hall said, explaining why she decided to share lunch with him. “This gentleman was not busy when he went to sign himself to serve his country. He was not busy when he got up to put his uniform on to go out and fight for his country. That man was not busy…I will never ever be too busy to give some time for a veteran.”
Vice Mayor Hall shared this heart-warming anecdote during the Haines City Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday morning. She and several other city officials appeared at Railroad Park in Downtown Haines City to pay their respects along with several other residents, including local veterans.
The ceremony opened with the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem, followed by a prayer offered by Parks and Recreation Director Terrel Griffin. He mentioned how many of the people gathered there that day were only able to do so because of the sacrifices made by those who fought and died within the armed forces.
“We can never be grateful enough for the sacrifices they made, and we are humbled by their willingness to put their own lives aside for the benefit of ours,” he said. “Father, carve their sacrifices into our hearts, so we may never forget the loss of these heroes…Guide us and make us worthy of the sacrifices from which we have benefited. We pray we never forget how truly blessed we are as a nation, as a people, and as your children.”
Leah West, Outreach Representative and Immigration Specialist, appeared on behalf of Senator Darren Soto to offer his remarks on his behalf. As someone who has met and visited with armed forces service members during his travels to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and the border of Syria, he has witnessed firsthand their “courage and fortitude.”
Soto also mentioned the $55 billion America is currently providing to military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, mentioning how many brave men and women are continuing to fight to preserve the freedom of others here and abroad.
“This is the battle between democracy and authoritarianism, and it is a battle we cannot afford to lose,” West said on his behalf. “America has fought many battles, and we will continue to prevail.”
The ceremony concluded that morning with the laying of the wreath near the flagpoles and memorial pavers in Railroad Park with a performance of “Amazing Grace” followed by a three-shot volley and playing of “Taps.” Mayor Anne Huffmanconcluded with a reminder of the importance of that national holiday.
“We take this time to remember and honor the men and women in our armed forces who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” she said. “It is also a time that we should lift the heavy hearts of their survivors and their families, who not only grieve them one day a year but every day of the year. We thank you veterans for all you have done, and it is a great day to be an American.”