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There are three events scheduled this weekend around Lakeland to observe Memorial Day, a federal holiday for honoring and mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving.
“Memorial Day and weekend is a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many for the freedoms we enjoy,” said Gary Clark, retired U.S. Air Force colonel and director of the Polk County Veterans Council. “If we ever forget, our republic will fail.”
Events begin on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park, on the west shore of Lake Beulah by the RP Funding Center. The ceremony is to honor “those who made the ultimate sacrifice.” The NAACP Lakeland Branch is hosting the event. Guest speaker is John Hillery, Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Terry Coney, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, said he hopes some of the younger generations will attend Saturday’s event.
“I think the Gen Z and younger generations don’t have a good grasp on the sacrifice of military families and veterans,” Coney said. “There are fewer and fewer connections to military life in American society, because of a voluntary military and the reduction in size of our military. When I was a kid, I knew many men that had spent time in the military. My dad and step-father both went to Korea.”
Coney was drafted into the military two weeks after he graduated from college.
“Everyone likes to tell you thank you for your service, but I’m not sure how eager they are for their sons or daughters to enter the United States military,” Coney added. “So by young people attending the ceremony, it gives them an opportunity to learn about the purpose and history of Memorial Day, and hopefully feel a need to continue the tradition.”
Following the ceremony in Veterans Memorial Park, on Saturday at noon the American Legion Post at 175 Arianna Street is hosting an event. It is open to the public.
On Monday, May 29th, Lakeland Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens and the Polk County Veterans Council will host its annual Memorial Day Tribute, beginning at 10 a.m. Presentation of the colors, a musical tribute and bag piper will pay honor to those who died in the line of duty. U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, is scheduled to speak. Coloring activities will be available for children and a complimentary lunch, catered by 2nd Hand Smoke BBQ, will follow. Donations will be accepted and cards will be available to fill out for care packages to our local deployed troops. The cemetery is at 2125 Bartow Highway, just south of Grove Park.
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