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Date of Issue: November 16, 2006

Heroes

For those of you who didn't know, I'm a U.S. Army veteran. My dad was a World War II veteran in the Army. He fought at a place called Bastogne.

I know most of you and have visited and talked with you in your homes. Sadly, you are members of a fraternity that is not accepting new members. Your group will never be bigger than it is today.

When I started writing the column, many of you were reluctant to talk to me. You said you didn't do "anything special" in the war. Some of you even wanted to forget your experiences. Many of you, however, have told me things that you never even told your wives.

A common thread among all of you was that you didn't really think you had much of a story to tell, that you didn't do anything special and that you weren't a hero.

On the contrary, everyone has a story, and 18 million people make up the entire story of World War II.

Every story needs to be told, because one day, there won't be anyone left to tell the stories.

The Greatest Generation column is our way of honoring the World War II veterans with every story, not just on one or two special days of the year.

Each year, we submit the Greatest Generation column to the Florida Press Association for a community service award and each year we're snubbed.

But my reward is when a vet calls me and says "thanks for telling my story," or when a vet calls me and gives me the name of another vet. That's my reward.

Each and every one of you has said you weren't a hero, but that during the war, you would do anything not to let a buddy down. You all said the heroes are still over there.

But I submit to you that not all the heroes are still over there. Some of them are sitting right here in front of me.

I hope when my time comes and St. Peter shows me the list of everything good I've done in my life, I hope it's not a blank page. I hope that at the top of the list, it will say that I wrote about a group of ordinary people who became heroes.

To all of you who have been gracious enough to invite me into your homes and share your memories, you are my heroes. I salute you.

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Veteran Raymond "Mac" McDannold, who served 26 years in the U.S. Navy, waits for the program to start. Later he addressed the audience, encouraging support for the garden and veterans memorial.

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Ooh La La! Bistro of Holmes Beach served a continental breakfast before the ceremony. "Well, rations never tasted anywhere's as good," said Vietnam veteran Clive Parlance, of Bradenton Beach.

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Mike Clinesmith, of the American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24, presents the service fl ags during the ceremony on Nov. 9.

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Veteran Don Maloney pays tribute to "the greatest generation" and encourages the audience to honor the newest generation of U.S. heroes.

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Patches, medals, uniforms and caps decorated veterans at "A Celebration Honoring Our Greatest Generation" last Thursday at the Holmes Beach City Hall Butterfly Park and Veterans Memorial.

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The American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 honor guard presents the colors during the ceremony sponsored by The Islander. Later there was a 21-gun salute from the rifle detail and a bugler played Taps.