LARGO — A decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran urged attendees at a Memorial Day ceremony at Largo Central Park to keep fallen Americans in their minds and their families in their hearts.
“For their ultimate sacrifice allows us to embrace and to celebrate the freedom we enjoy today,” said Rev. Bob Swick, the keynote speaker at the May 27 event.
Swick’s four years of active duty were mostly carried out in the Far East. He served in Vietnam with the First Reconnaissance Battalion and 2nd Battalion 5th Marines. After being medevaced and released from four months hospitalization, he served at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, completing his active duty as company commander at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“Our solemn celebration today reaffirms from year to year a national act of patriotism and faith. Today we awkwardly express our recognition, our admiration for those who sacrificed unconditionally to keep our cherished freedom alive and strong,” he said. “All gave some and some gave all.”
Swick serves as a priest, chaplain and veterans advocate in the Tampa Bay area.
He is a recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and numerous other awards for his service.
His personal decorations include the Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Heart, two Presidential Unit Citations, Combat Action Ribbon and Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.
“Since 9/11 … 18 American servicemen have received the Medal of Honor, of which seven were awarded posthumously,” Swick said.
Also speaking was Mayor Woody Brown, who said the crowd was the largest he’s seen in the 15 years he has attended the annual event.
“It’s important that we pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so that we can have the freedoms we have. And the memories of these heroes live forever,” Brown said.
The event included the presentation of patriotic songs, poems, a tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces, rifle volleys, a wreath presentation and other activities.
Several veterans organizations were represented, along with local Boy Scouts and the Largo Police and Honor Guard, Military Order of the World Wars, and the Clearwater High Marine Junior ROTC.