‘Rain or shine’


“This is a day to remember. Our clock up there says ‘take time to remember,’ and that’s what we’re going to do today.”

Annie Blanks @DestinLogAnnie

FORT WALTON BEACH — Rain started to fall Monday morning at Beal Memorial Cemetery as hundreds of people began to gather for the annual Memorial Day Ceremony.

A light rain continued to fall during the introduction, the chiming of the 11th hour and the invocation.

But as the members of the Fort Walton Beach High School Junior ROTC program presented the colors and the crowd rose for the national anthem, the rain disappeared and the sun came out.

The annual celebration, hosted this year by the Veterans Tribute Tower Committee and the Emerald Coast Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, honored the lives of servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Rain or shine, this parking lot has filled up, which is a wonderful thing,” said Tom Rice, president of the Veterans Tribute Tower Committee. “This ceremony has occurred for almost 40 years. This is a day to remember. Our clock up there says ‘take time to remember,’ and that’s what we’re going to do today.”

After the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, representatives from dozens of local military and patriotic groups presented carnations to be laid at a wreath honoring fallen service members as their names were read by Rice.

John Wambough and his wife, Brenda, were among those in attendance Monday. Wambough is a retired Air Force veteran with 28 years of service, and was at the ceremony to honor his late nephew, Gregory Glaeser, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps who lost his life during a training exercise in 1996.

“We come thinking about (Gregory), as well as all the people I served with and flew with who are no longer here with us,” Wambough said. “We think about what they sacrificed for this great country. They deserve the respect of people coming out and acknowledging what they did on behalf of our country.”

Tom Gasper, a World War II Air Force veteran, said the ceremony was “very important” to him and his wife, Barbara, who also have a son in the Air Force.

“It means a whole lot to us,” Gasper said. “I had friends (in the Air Force) who never came back.”

Lieutenant Gen. Brad Webb was the guest speaker at the ceremony. Webb, a commander of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, spoke about those he knew who were killed in the line of duty and said he “had faith” in the ability of small groups of people to make big differences in the fight for freedom.

“These brave men and women are willing to run to the sounds of battle,” Webb told the crowd. “To defend those unable to defend themselves, to preserve the ideals of democracy, and, if needed, to lay down their lives in the service of country.”