Framed by a large oak tree and in sight of the unknown soldier gravesite, 30 people participated in a Memorial Day ceremony at Gulfport’s Lincoln Cemetery on Monday, May 29. “I’m overjoyed with everyone that came out and seeing everyone’s support not only for the society but for the fallen veterans. It was a great turnout,” said Vanessa Gray, president of the non-profit Lincoln Cemetery Society, pictured standing to the right of center in a striped top. “The unknown soldier is a really big thing. There was no head stone. No birth date. No name. Just knowing that we could do something for him to say that ‘You’re not forgotten. You’re not unknown. We know who you are because you’re right here with us.’ He is in our record books under the unknowns. We have about three pages of unknown people. At the very end, it says, ‘Unknown veteran.’ And, then it just says November 6, 1934.”
Standing from left (back) are Rudy Salas, a Vietnam wounded veteran from the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines who served from 1966-1967, and commander of the Assisting Veterans of America Support Team (AVAST) Color Guard of Wesley Chapel who was in charge of the American flag for the Memorial Day event; Luis Sanjurjo, an aid to AVAST of Wesley Chapel, and the event’s a cappella soloist for the U.S. National Anthem; Dr. Basha Jordan, a Lincoln Cemetery Society advisor who gave the invocation and remarks; and Vanessa Gray, president of the non-profit society who opened and closed the ceremony.
Toni Carcione, right, treasurer of the Lincoln Cemetery Society non-profit, reads an honor roll of 295 veteran names with branches of service, if known, plus the unknown soldier as part of a ceremony attended by 30 people. From left, seated, are Phyllis Marcum of Gulfport; Vanessa Gray, society president; and, Veronique Thornhill, U.S. Army specialist from St. Petersburg whose grandmother, Annie Mae Thornhill, is buried at the cemetery. “I’ve served in different uniforms for over 20 years,” said Thornhill. “I have an extra pair of boots to donate for the unnamed soldier. I am proud to do anything that I can to help out. I want to support these families, friends and neighbors. I love them.” In the background is a military headstone with an American flag: Sergeant Euris Bland, 640 Ordinance Ammo Company, World War II, August 26, 1911-March 13, 1952.