The old soldiers gathered Monday for Memorial Day at veterans plaza, remembering those who did not return home and a young one who just did.

Members of American Legion Post 106 led services attended by an ample audience, who applauded the return this month of Sgt. Joseph Taranto to his wife and four sons.

Taranto’s unit, the Florida National Guard’s 870th Engineer Company out of Crestview, was tasked with finding and disposing of improvised explosive devices.

“Business was real good over there,” he said. “”Same things we we’re finding over there happened in Boston.

“It’s a very bad business,” said Taranto. “Pray for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and pray for those who never made it home.”

The ceremony was led by Post Commander Larry Hale, who offered an impassioned focus on the cost of war to families and loved ones back home. He spoke of the dying words of soldiers throughout the ages, “remember me to my wife, to my mother.”

As importantly, is the importance of he and his fellow veterans to live up to the mission outlined in the Legion’s preamble, “to do service to our communities,” he stressed.

“I, and so many others like me, have done my best to live up to that,” said Hale. “They came back to make the community a better place.”

His daughter, Brooke Pittman, stood alongside, gently ringing a bell, as Hale read off the names of the area’s casualties from Vietnam.

Chaplain Charles Scott opened the service with a prayer, and did not leave unprayed concern for the direction of the country away from God.

“Thank the Lord the flag still flies,” he said. “We honor those who paid the debt, and honor the many of those who will yet serve and who will yet pay the price.

“We are fast losing that freedom that’s deserving of living one nation under God,” Scott said. “God help us that we never have to try. Remind us of the cost of freedom, that it’s up to us to maintain that freedom, by being willing to sacrifice our lives if necessary.”

With veterans standing crisply in salute, Angeline Stanley began the solemn occasion with a singing of “The Star Spangled Banner. In her closing, she summoned the beauty of returning home safely in a contemporary rendition of  “Amazing Grace.”

In Scott’s closing, blessing the low country boil that followed at Chapman Botanical Gardens, he spoke of how “we are honoring those who paid the terrific price so we could be here today, only by God’s amazing grace.

“We honor those who will never join in that fellowship around the table again,” he said. 

He offered a blessing for our nation’s leaders, including the president, and closed with a promise that expressions of the Christian faith would not be deterred by public policy. “You will not stop us from raising the name of Jesus,” Scott prayed.

At the low country boil, guests were treated to a low country boil beneath the shade of the gardens.