Islander ceremony honors veterans

An estimated 125 people gathered in the parking lot alongside the Island Veterans Memorial plaque outside Holmes Beach City Hall Nov. 9 for The Islander’s seventh annual Veterans Salute.

The event, with help from the city for setup and cleanup, honors veterans of Allied countries, in particular those profiled in the newspaper’s Greatest Generation and Forgotten Generation columns about World War II and Korea respectively.

Islander publisher Bonner Joy served as master of ceremonies, while the Rev. Ron Joseph gave the invocation. The AMI Beach Cafe brought coffee for guests, while The Islander provided pastries and doughnuts.

It was an emotional day for many at the ceremony, including Vicki Gipson Grogan, the granddaughter of the late WWII veteran Ralph Bassett, a speaker at past ceremonies.

Last year, Grogan gave a tribute to her grandfather at the ceremony only days after he died.

This year, her tribute had a happier note.

She brought her cousin, U.S. Army Spc. Nick Grogan, to make a few remarks. Grogan had just returned home to Michigan from a deployment to Afghanistan.

He told the assembly it was his duty to go and he never regretted the decision.

He thanked all for their support and, in exchange, received a standing ovation.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger gave a short talk on how he was too young for WWII service but that his family pitched in and did something for the war effort. The mayor later served in the U.S. Air Force.

This reporter also made a few remarks, thanking the WWII and Korean War veterans for sharing their stories with him and The Islander’s readers.

He noted that when the columns began in 2002, the paper published one each week. After a few years, the columns became biweekly, then monthly. The columns diminished as members of the fraternity of WWII and Korean War veterans became fewer.

One day, the column will eventually come when the stories turn to America’s Unknown Generation — Vietnam.

But there are yet a few WWII and Korean War stories to be told.

Karen Abel, granddaughter of Royal Canadian Air Force pilot Robert Lynch, talked at the ceremony about the 7,000-mile journey she plans this summer to the Aleutian Islands with her mother and daughter Alexandra, who accompanied her at the ceremony. They plan to visit the air bases where Canadian and American airmen flew together to bomb the Japanese on Kiska and Attu islands. They’ll also visit the gravesites of some of the fallen airmen.

She calls it her tribute to the men who were willing to give their lives to protect freedom and stop the Japanese from advancing further in the Aleutian chain.

Singer Mike Sales led in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,” while Bohnenberger gave the Pledge of Allegiance.

The American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 Honor Guard made the presentation of the colors and fired their rifles in a 21-gun salute to fallen veterans.

The playing of the bugle call of taps ended the ceremony, with very few dry eyes left in the audience.


Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, a veteran, gives a speech at the Nov. 9 Veterans Day ceremony at Holmes Beach City Hall. It was The Islander’s seventh annual Veterans Day ceremony.


Vicki Gipson Grogan of Bradenton and her cousin, U.S. Army Spc. Nick Grogan of Michigan, attend The Islander Veterans Day ceremony at Holmes Beach City Hall. Grogan recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan. Islander Photos: Mark Young


Karen Abel and her daughter Alexandra tell the story of Karen’s grandfather, who fought in the Aleutian Islands WWII campaign, at the Nov. 9 Veterans Day ceremony at Holmes Beach City Hall.

U.S. Army Spc. Nick Grogan recently returned home from Afghanistan to Michigan and a new wife, having been married just a month before his third deployment to the Middle East.


Capt. Drew Thomas of the Bradenton American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 Honor Guard speaks at the Nov. 9 Veterans Day ceremony at Holmes Beach City Hall. Thomas described to guests what the Honor Guard and the flag represent at military funerals.

The American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 Honor Guard at the Nov. 9 Veterans Day ceremony at Holmes Beach City Hall.

Tom Miller of the American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 Honor Guard plays taps to close the Nov. 9 Veterans Day ceremony at Holmes Beach City Hall.


Drew Thomas and Warren Weil fold the American flag as part of the closing ceremony of the Nov. 9 Veterans Day activities at Holmes Beach City Hall.


The Palma Sola VFW Post 10141 Color Guard opens the inaugural Bradenton Beach Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11 at the Bridge Street Market. The annual event is sponsored by the Bridge Street Merchants. Islander Photo: Mark Young


Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy, right, gives a stirring and emotional Veterans Day speech at the city’s inaugural celebration. Bridge Street Merchants member Adam Jenkins, left, organized the event, and presented Shaughnessy and the Palma Sola VFW Post 10141 commemorative plaques for their participation in the annual event. Islander Photo: Mark Young

Soldier welcomed from Afghanistan tour

Today I am hear to speak about my cousin SPC Nicholas Gipson.

Last year I asked everyone to pray for the safe return of Nick from Afghanistan. I wanted to speak about Nick today because he has a inspiring story one of courage and commitment. Going back to the beginning, Nick was born to be a soldier. The family joke is that Nick never learned how to walk as a toddler but he learned to march.

As early as 4 years old Nick would march around in army outfits. So of course our family wasn’t surprised when Nick graduated from high school and joined the Army. Nick’s father, David Gipson, who raised Nick as a single dad was so proud of him, we all were. One year after graduating high school Nick was deployed to Iraq. He spent one year there and when he returned his Dad was worried. Nick was spelling well and seemed different.

War does that, he left a boy and came back a man. His innocence gone. But not soon after his return form Iraq we were relieved as Nick met the love of his life Amanda. Amanda boosted Nick’s spirits and he enrolled in college. In May of last year, Nick married Amanda in all dressed in his military uniformed.

Nick’s Dad was delighted. But all that celebration was about to come to an end. One month after Nick married Amanda he would be faced with the fact that he would have to leave his wife of one month as he received orders to deploy to Afghanistan. The same time he received those orders to deploy to Afghanistan he received the worse news of his life. His Dad at age 49 died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Nick was devastated. I was worried so much about Nick. He had to leave his wife of one month, settle his dad’s estate, lay his dad to rest and deploy to Afghanistan. So as a protective cousin I started making calls and pulling favors to postpone Nick’s deployment.

The phone calls paid off and a commander said for me to talk to Nick and he was not ready that would postpone his deployment. The commander stated, “we can’t have that kid out their in a battle zone without a clear head, we can’t afford to loose another good soldier”. I called Nick and told him had a choice to postpone his deployment but his response was “Thank you Vicki, I appreciate it but I have decided I should go for my wife, my family and my country. It is my duty”. So Nick was off to Afghanistan. It was a rough year for our family sending care packages and basically holding our breath for his safe return. I had the chance to talk to Nick via Skype once in Afghanistan. I asked him if he needed anything if he was okay. You know there is something so amazing about a soldier.

No matter what their situation, how horrible it is, how lonely they are and being without things of luxury they never complain, never ask for anything and always make it sound that everything is just fine. They just don’t want to worry anyone. Well after a year of worry I finally got the news I had been waiting for. On September 6th, Nick had departed Afghanistan, I was so relieved and the most amazing part, Nick left Afghanistan on his Dad’s 50th birthday. I truly believe his Dad was watching out for him the whole time. Welcome home SPC Nicholas Gipson, we love you and we thank you.

Vicki Gipson-Grogan

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