by SC Reporter Ariadna Ampudia
The City of Sanibel is hosting its annual Veterans Day Celebration at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 11 at City Hall, 800 Dunlop Rd.
The celebration returns around the flag pole since the COVID-19 pandemic forced a virtual event last year. Special guests include Rotarian and Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel William Harkey and Reverend Dr. John Danner from the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.
Rev. Danner, who is officiating the prayer of invocation, said Veteran’s Day is appreciating what the armed forces has done for the greater good. “It’s a way I can be supportive of the community,” Danner said.
Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was deemed a national holiday in May 1938. The holiday was meant to celebrate veterans and the end of World War I, despite the imminent breakout of World War II. In the forthcoming years, the national holiday would be used to honor the service, sacrifice and patriotism American veterans demonstrated from all wars.
Lt. Col. Harkey said Veteran’s Day was about honor and service, something in which he was proud to partake. His military experience is unique because he never fought in a war zone. Instead, he assisted with Army Public Affairs, recruitment, advertising and speaking to the press.
“I did 29 and a half years in the army, and I never went to a war zone in that entire time,” Harkey said.
He never thought of himself as a veteran, despite being in the military. It wasn’t until after being thanked for his service by a soldier’s wife, his entire perspective on himself changed. She reminded him that even though he may have not fought in battle, if he had to, he would in a heartbeat. He contributed in different ways and is proud of his service, he said.
Although he was in the military for 29 years and participating in multiple tours, Harkey said, he wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
Fred Bondurant, a past president of the Lee Coast Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America participating in Thursday’s ceremony, said the annual Veteran’s Day celebration serves more than just remembrance.
“The ceremony is a chance for local people to remember and honor veterans,” Bondurant said.
The event will include a performance by the BIG ARTS band playing patriotic music and conducted by Sanibel’s Music Director August Thoma, at 10:45 a.m.. At 11 a.m., a flag raising demonstration will be performed by Scout Liam Tritaik of Boy Scout Troop 1740, Christopher Erickson of Club Scout Pack 1740 and the Sanibel Police Honor Guard.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance cited by Caroline Muundell, President of the Jr. National Honor Society at the Sanibel School, and the National Anthem sung by Kathy Lamade, Rev. Danner will commence a prayer of invocation. Mayor Holly Smith will also say a speech of remarks and recognize any military veterans among the city workforces.
Lt. Col. Harkey will give his Veterans Day address, followed by a sing-along of military songs including the infamous ‘God Bless America’. Towards the end of the ceremony, a veteran’s remembrance and final roll call will be announced.
During the final roll call, the celebration will honor six Sanibel veterans who have died this last year. Maj. John Boone, Cpt. John Frymoyer, first Lt. Jim Hellmuth, Rear Admiral Scott Logan, Cpt. Jack Madaras and first Lt. Charlie Trainor are among those listed.
“We recognize everyone who died on Memorial Day, but on Veterans Day we recognize everybody who served in our country,” Harkey said. “Every day ought to be Veterans Day.”