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About 100 people gathered Sunday at the Cedar Key Cemetery to honor fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guard during the annual Memorial Day Ceremony.
Nearly all in attendance joined in as Sandy McQuitty played the guitar and sang God Bless the USA. She also performed America the Beautiful. A Williston resident, McQuitty is currently in her fourth year as President of the Ladies Auxiliary 10733 Orange Lake.
Hosted by the Marine Corps League Tri County 1018, the memorial ceremony has grown dramatically since its inception seven years ago.
“We started this back in 2002 – we had 15 people,” said Ivan Chubb, one of the ceremony organizers. “That was even before we had the flag pole. The city put that up in 2003.”
Holding the ceremony in Cedar Key makes sense, Chubb said. “The population here is 924 people,” he said. “There are about 270 military burials in this cemetery – that’s about a third of the population.”
Many veterans service organizations were represented at the ceremony, including AMVETS, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Marine Corps League.
Tri-County Veterans brought a large trailer decorated with flags and a banner that read, “We Support All Veterans.” The group was started by three veterans Jack Hudson and Kary Colson, both of Chiefland, and Jerry Bazar of Old Town.
“We want the veterans to get exposure,” Hudson said. “We want the troops to get exposure. They deserve to get recognized – all of them.” The trailer can also be seen throughout the year during parades and similar festivities.
Twenty-year-old Ace, the Riderless Horse with empty saddle and boots attached to stirrups to honor fallen heroes, also made an appearance, traveling from his home in Trenton with helper James McCook.
The ceremony’s guest speaker was AMVETS Florida Commander Bruce Foster, who spent eight years in the Marine Corps and 22 years in the Army. Foster turned “72-years-young” on Memorial Day this year. “Can’t get a better day than that,” he said.
Foster spoke of the sacrifice and dedication that servicemen and women have given to their country.
“It is true – America is strong and free. But we would never have come this far without the heroes we call veterans,” Foster said. “Today we have the privilege of honoring this very special group of Americans, whose service spans every decade of our country’s existence.”
“We owe a great deal,” Foster concluded. “First and foremost we owe them our freedom, and today especially, we owe them our gratitude.”