Honoring Our Heroes

Students and Color Guard members from Admiral Farragut Academy were led by Jenna Willard Color Guard Commander, throughout the parade and presented the colors for the Sunday’s Opening Ceremonies for the 8th Annual Beach Volleyball Gulfport Open. 

Beach Boulevard and Shore Boulevard were packed Sunday, November 10, during Gulfport’s 2019 Heroes Weekend veteran’s parade. Folks gathered on every corner, balcony and rooftop to get the best view of the city’s and nation’s heroes and their supporters as they paraded by. 

Former New York City Opera singers Catherine and Ralph Bassett sang the National Anthem on the steps of the Gulfport Casino Ballroom at the start of the parade. Vice Mayor Paul Ray, an Army veteran, emceed the parade proceedings. 

Community groups flashed their smiles and waved their flags in honor of veterans. City Councilmembers were among the parade participants, including Councilmember Christine Brown held two flags throughout the day – one in honor of her sister Lisa, who served 24 years in the Coast Guard; the other honored her father, who served  24 years in the Navy. Councilmember Michael Fridovich, a Vietnam veteran, handed out “Proud of Our Troops” bracelets to the crowd. 

Council member Dan Liedtke walked in the parade with VETSports, a national organization with 25 chapters across the country. 

“VETSports was founded in 2012 by three combat-wounded veterans,” said Liedtke. “The organization is to help veterans rehabilitate through sports and community involvement.” 

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) let out its MACK daddy truck – the red diesel engine was large and in charge during this year’s parade and proudly sported the US Military branch flags and nation’s colors.

Councilmemeber Dan Liedtke and VETSports participants weren’t just ready to spike it on the volleyball court – they joined the parade to honor a fallen war hero MAJ David G. Taylor Jr. who was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq on October 26, 2006. “During the 8th Annual Beach Volleyball Gulfport Open in honor of our veterans, 30 combat wounded veterans gathered this weekend; 35 teams, 150 players played on Sunday; 150 teams with a total of 500 players played throughout the weekend,” according to Liedtke. Front row, from left: Beth Luetkemeyer, Kevin Basso, Jordan Stewart, Bryan Belcher, Margarat Basso, Trae Hanie, Shane Wisner, Nellie Weiss, Nicole Mills. Back row: Steven Wrena, Andrew Bennett, Jennifer Bennett

Hart Watt from the Royal Canadian Legion Post 144, located in Clearwater, proudly marched next to their American counterparts to keep military heritage alive.

Honored parade participant Dave Mottoli, 98, who served in WWII, continues to honor veterans past and present.

Gulfport’s freshly minted special events trolley made an appearance and received great applause from the crowd.

Gulfport Gecko Amalgamated Marching Band, Sponsored by the Gulfport Merchants Chamber, helped keep the event upbeat and to “Keep Gulfport Weird!”

The US Coastguard Auxiliary Flotila 7-16 located at 3120 Mariam St. S. proudly represented the Coast Guard’s Safe Boating Program in a head-turning Ford pickup truck. Back: Howard Bush, Coast Guard Auxiliary, 6 months, Marcella Ruso, Coast Guard Auxiliary, 19 years, Bill Ackerman, Coast Guard Auxiliary, 18 months. Front: Ellie Zinner, Coastguard Auxiliary, 8 years, Marty RIchardson, Active Duty Coast Guard- Ret 21 years, Coastguard Auxiliary, 4 years.

Scottish Terrier Thistle, 13, isn’t one to pass up a parade, especially one supporting our veterans. Thistle wants all the pets.

Gulfport Police Department’s team members, Chief Rob Vincent, Det. Jennifer Crowson, Officer Selena Ramos, Commander Mary Farrand, Officer Arion Nieves, Commander Josh Stone, Officer Richard Bynum. Team Guns won the tournament against Team Hoses, Gulfport’s Fire Department members, for the 6th year in a row.


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