The Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11 may have been the largest yet, said Parade Marshal Dan Kennedy, a 35-year member of the Sarasota Patriotic Observance Committee.
Mark Shelby of the Christian Motorcyclists Association said the community spirit was indeed running high when it came to participation in the event.
“We've got a bunch of guys here today that are joining us and aren't even part of us,” he said. “They’re all like, come on, ride with us.”
The parade featured about 40 participating groups, multiple school marching bands, 200 veteran-owned jeeps, all local VFW and American Legion posts.
Those joining the proceedings included four World War II veterans.
“Wow, I can’t believe it,” said Al Perkowski, a World War II veteran who decided to participate in a parade for the first time. “It’s just a great feeling. It’s hard to believe this is really happening.”
The parade was followed by a ceremony at J.D. Hamel Park, which included a welcome by Sonny Bywaters of American Legion Post 30, an invocation and benediction by Jan Hamel Solomon, and proclamations declaring Veteran’s Day by Mayor Kyle Battie and County Commissioner Mark Smith.
The ceremony’s guest speaker was U.S. Marine Corps veteran Carlos Moreira, director of campus engagement for Veteran Success and Alumni Affairs at University of South Florida.
“Whether you serve in combat or not, you sign your name away to a blank check, giving your life away for your nation, in order for us to have the freedoms that we have today,” Moreira said.
Solomon, the daughter of Chaplain J.D. Hamel, for whom the park is named, recognized what would have been the chaplain’s 100th birthday. J.D. Hamel was chaplain for the Sarasota fire and police departments and sheriff's office, from 1960-1997.