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A celebration of service

By Kimberly Tippett Special to the Times

On Wednesday morning, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. a celebration of Veterans Day was held at St. George Island’s Lighthouse Park.

The crowd was large at the island's Veterans Day ceremony
Bill Dean performed
The veterans stand near the lighthouse

The Florida State University Air Force ROTC Color Guard took part in the ceremony, which was emceed by Jim Kemp, former president of the St. George Lighthouse Association. After the posting of colors by the color guard and the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Jim Kemp, the National Anthem was performed by Grammy-winning country music singer, songwriter, and island resident, Billy Dean.

The invocation was offered by Bob Tindale, pastor of the SGI United Methodist Church and was followed by U.S. Air Force veteran Bob Heide, who introduced the special guests in attendance. They included retired Army Major Gen. James E. Donald, retired Navy Rear Adm. John Stewart, Carrabelle Mayor Brenda La Paz, County Commissioner Bert B. Boldt, Sheriff A.J.  Smith, Superintendent-elect Steve Lanier, and Joshua D. Gabel, regional director for the capital region for US Sen. Marco Rubio.

Kemp the introduced the keynote speaker, Col. Christopher Peters, the vice-commander for the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base.

Peters discussed the rebuilding of Tyndall after Hurricane Michael’s destruction in October 2018. On Oct. 13, 2020, Tyndall broke ground on a new Air Battle Manager Simulator Facility.

Peters said Tyndall is the sole training location for the Air Force’s air battle managers and the new building will provide secure access to advanced facilities and new technology ensuring the survivability of the training program in combat operations. This construction project is the first of 44 planned projects in a $5 billion rebuild at Tyndall Air Force Base to create a base to meet the needs of the Air Force and the nation.

Peters also discussed how Tyndall is a key contributor to training for the Air Force, due to its location on the Gulf Coast and its expanded facility. He talked about the 325th Fighter Wing recently hosting “Checkered Flag.” one of the largest air combat exercises the Air Force holds. This exercise allows servicemen and women who have never fired a missile to fire live missiles and to train with top military experts.

He concluded by saying thank you to the veterans for their contribution to keeping America safe and free. He reminded the crowd to look at the young men and women in the military with admiration as they define our military and its future, living their lives under a set of values and honor.

Army veteran Gordon Adkins, followed with a passionate rendition of “God Bless America”. A moment of silence was observed and the ringing of the bells ceremony followed, honoring local veterans who are no longer with us. The FSU Color Guard retired the colors, and the benediction was offered by Tindale.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, all guests were treated to a few songs by Dean and enjoyed refreshments provided by the St. George Lighthouse Association and The Beach Pit.

Thank you to all who participated and attended this event honoring all those who have served.