By Michael Isam
St. Augustine, Fla, (May 24, 2014) – On Friday the Council on Aging (COA) held their annual Memorial Day Celebration at River House on Marine Street. The event was well attended by a cadre of veterans from several branches.
Martha Skinner, Senior Center Coordinator was Master of Ceremonies. Dr. David Rice, Pastor of Ancient City Baptist Church provided the invocation and asked attendees to observe a moment of silence for those veterans who have given their “last full measure of devotion” to their country.
Color presentation was provided by members of the Nease Naval Junior ROTC under the direction of John A. Duffy, USN (Retired).
SGM Ray Quinn, USA, (Retired) spoke eloquently about St. Augustine’s display of flags beginning with the American Legion post on Anderson Circle, flag displayed by the city of St. Augustine at the west end of the Bridge of Lions and down Avenida Menendez to the parade ground across from the Florida National Guard Headquarters on Marine Street. “The flag on the parade ground did not always fly 24 hours per day. The flag was raised every morning and lowered every evening until 2002,” said Quinn. “When the number of soldiers being deployed by the Florida National Guard,” continued Quinn, “the decision was made to illuminate it and fly it 24 hours per day to let the soldiers know this was their home, their temple and it was going to remain flying because of their sacrifices.” “If you think about it, our city would make a wonderful canvas for a Norman Rockwell painting, said Quinn.”
Quinn made reference to the anti-war demonstrations where protesters carried that same flag. “When I see that,” said Quinn, “I think of my brothers and sisters of the military made it possible for them be there, to carry the signs that I disagreed with, but which they believe in so fervently.”
Quinn went on to say, ”Since 2002 the Florida National Guard has deployed more than 14,000 men and women. Multiply that by the 50 states and five territories and you have a relevant force.” “We developed two ceremonies. One was for deployment and the other for their “Welcome Home!”
On deployment, each unit was given a flag and asked to fly it at their field of operation, to bring that flag home and display it in their armory to show their citizens where that flag had been and who it represents.”
Quinn went on to relate of the times that soldiers had come home with “Old Glory” wrapped around them. “I can close my eyes and see the funeral honors detail as they fold the flag with great care, crease it, and held against the chest, present it to a general officer accompanied by a three second salute.” “I remember each time a general officer bent down on one knee to present that flag to the family of the fallen.” “Please accept this flag as a token of our appreciation from a grateful nation.”
After Quinn came the River House Chorus presenting an Armed Forces medley. Piper Jim Sloan concluded the ceremony with “Danny Boy”.
Everyone adjourned to the dining room to enjoy a small repast which was highlighted by a presentation to Mario Patruno of a mess hall tray and fork. From the twinkle in his eyes and the smile on his face, you would believe he received the most treasured gift of his life.