Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Boca Raton, Delray Beach ceremonies honor veterans,invididuals who died for freedom
Boca Raton News, Susanna Laurenti, 5/28/02
Organizers of South County Memorial Day ceremonies reported record crowds Monday, despite the day’s heat.
Ceremonies in Boca Raton and Delray Beach attracted thousands who turned out to honor war veterans and others, including the police and firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “There’s obviously a connection. A year ago, we thought we lived in peace, and now we’ve had a rude wake-up call,” said City Councilman Dave Freudenberg who attended the city’s annual Memorial Day event at Boca Raton Cemetery. “There’s a new spirit and meaning to Memorial Day.”

Freudenberg and city Event Planner Emily Lilly said the crowd at the ceremony was larger than they’d ever seen it, and included more young people than ever before. Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams agreed and pointed out that young people who grew up in the city are now serving in the armed forces as part of the United States’ war against terrorism. “We have young people who are in harm’s way now. This ceremony was a tribute to them, former service men and the community,” he said.

In Delray Beach, more than a hundred people attended a remembrance ceremony at Delray Beach Cemetery. Many than moved on to a wreath-laying ceremony at Veterans Park near the Intracoastal Waterway where a wreath was tossed into the water in memory of those who died in military service. “Memorial Day is a time to remember the guys who didn’t come back,” said Henry Balvin, a Delray Beach resident and member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4141 who served as a master sergeant for a year in Vietnam and worked with the Military Assistance Corps Vietnam Special Operations Group. He said Monday’s events reminded him of his best friend, Jim Kelly, who flew with him and died in combat. “This day brings back a lot of war memories,” he said.

Many of the officials who addressed crowds at South County Memorial Day ceremonies mentioned the events of Sept. 11 in their statements. West of Boca Raton, Marine Corps Veteran Neil Casey deviated briefly from his script while serving as master of ceremonies for a Memorial Day observance at Veterans’ Park on Palmetto Park Road to tearfully remember victims of the terrorist attacks.
“This is not on the program,” said Casey, “but let’s take a moment to reflect on Sept. 11, the ones we lost and the ones we’re losing now. God bless America.”

State Rep. Irv Slosberg and Florida Sen. Ron Klein, both South County Democrats, spoke at that event, as did county Commissioner Burt Aaronson, county Sheriff Ed Bieluch and Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore.

The ceremony was organized by a variety of veterans’ groups from suburban Boca Raton and attended by Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and ROTC units from Deerfield Beach and Stranahan high schools in Broward County.

The ceremony at Boca Raton Cemetery was organized by the city and featured performances from the Boca Raton High School Band and Navy Junior ROTC, the Fort Lauderdale Highlanders bagpipe ensemble and singer Nancy Davis.

In Delray Beach, 21-year-old Suzy Law sang “The Star Spangled Banner” for the 13th year in a row.
“It’s really important for people my age to be supportive of this,” she said. “We don’t really know what it’s like to go through a war. We need to respect the people who gave their lives for their country, even if it’s the heroes of Sept. 11.”
Delray Beach’s events were organized by local veterans’ groups. At cemeteries in both cities, Boy Scouts marked veterans’ graves with American flags.

Freelance Writer Nancy Miller contributed to this report.