The somber notes of Taps played at the Gulfport volleyball courts Sunday, November 8. Dozens of people bowed their heads remembering those who died in battlefields very far from the city’s brilliant sands and blue waters.
The moment of silence was one of several ways Gulfport marked Veterans Day, the anniversary of the end of World War I and the day Americans thank veterans for their service.
Kicking off the city’s activities, C.G. Mitchell, a Korean War veteran and combat medic, stood on a porch in front of the Gulfport Casino and read a poem he wrote titled “Remember Me.”
“This is the first time I’ve read it myself because my voice isn’t that good,” Mitchell told the audience apologetically, although his voice rang out clear.
Dedicated to those from all branches of the military who died, the poem ends, “I was not just a name etched deep into stone, soon forgotten and left alone … I was the soldier, the sailor, Airman, Marine, the one who died to keep you free, I am your country’s honored dead who ask of you one single thing: Remember me.”
Mitchell’s reading was followed by a parade, which included veterans, Gulfport officials, families, marching bands, non profits and employees of the city’s police, fire and sanitation departments. Waving flags and tooting car horns, the paraders started at Beach Boulevard and 28th Avenue, headed south to the Casino and ended their route at the Rec Center.
The day’s third major event was a volleyball tournament sponsored by VETSports, a non-profit that helps wounded veterans maintain their physical and mental health through sports and community involvement.
Taylor Urruela of Tampa, a VETSports co-founder and Army veteran who lost a leg due to injuries suffered in Iraq, said the tournament was in honor of Veterans Day and to remember his friend Maj. David Taylor, who died in Iraq Octover 22, 2006. Urruela said more than 40 teams, including two composed of veterans from various services, had registered for the event, with about 200 people expected to attend.
“We usually get crushed by the civilian team,” he said with a smile, explaining that volleyball isn’t his strongest sport.
Now in its fourth year, the Veterans Day tournament usually raises $5,000 to $7,000 for the organization’s activities, he said.
The event is held in Gulfport due largely to Councilman Dan Liedtke, Ward 1, who is president of VETSports’ Tampa chapter.