No Bull, No Fluff, No Smudges
Your news source for
Flagler, Florida and Beyond

At Flagler Airport, Veterans Day Framed by Traveling Vietnam Memorial and Freedom Fest

| November 11, 2016

vietnam traveling memorial wall

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is a 3/5-scale replica of Maya Lin’s original Vietnam Memorial in Washington. It is part of Freedom Fest at the Flagler airport all weekend. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County government usually commemorates Veterans Day in front of the Government Services Building in Bunnell, where a couple of hundred people usually gather for speeches and remembrance.


Today the commemoration was moved to the Flagler County airport to accommodate two larger occasions: the weekend-long Freedom Fest, a celebration of veterans with music, vendors and exhibits. And, more significantly, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a sizeable replica of the original black-granite Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., which unfurls the length of some 300 feet and lists the 58,272 names of servicemen and women who died in Vietnam. Their names are engraved as in the original memorial, enabling people to stencil the name of their loved one

The replica is the product of Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard County, a 30-year-old charitable organization. Other states and organizations have designed similar replica memorials, such as the Moving Wall, a half-size replica that travels the nation.

The traveling wall at the Flagler airport was set up in a straight line at the edge of the tarmac. All morning individuals or families approached its panels either to look for a specific name or to scan the ceaseless enormity of the names of the dead—and see, as with the granite monument in Washington, their own reflection in the wall. It didn’t take long for small mementos, flowers and notes, to appear at the foot of the wall, as in D.C.

Sal Rutigliano, Flagler County Veterans Services Officer, watches a fly-by of Flagler County FireFlight on what was Rutigliano's last day on the job. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Sal Rutigliano, Flagler County Veterans Services Officer, watches a fly-by of Flagler County FireFlight on what was Rutigliano’s last day on the job. Click on the image for larger view.
(© FlaglerLive)

The weekend’s events began with the county’s ceremony from a stage in front of which hundreds of people had gathered, seated and standing, including dozens of veterans, some of them in wheelchairs, many of them in uniform.

“I have a lot of respect for all the veterans that served, whether in peace time or in wartime,” retired Gen. Richard Butterfield, the keynote speaker, told the audience/. “Whatever you did, you did your part for your country, and for that, I salute you.”

He was followed by David Lydon, a member of the Flagler County Veterans Advisory Council. Before announcing the annual Veteran of the Year award, traditionally awarded at the Veterans Day ceremony, he spoke of Col. Gary E. Dekay, after whom the honor would be named from here on: Dekay, a Palm Coast resident, died earlier this year: he would have been 70 today. He’d been instrumental in establishing the county’s Veterans Appreciation Day and the annual award, Lydon said. “He was a catalyst for bringing the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall here, to our county for all to see,” he said. The weekend Freedom Fest was also “his vision,” Lydon said. It’s been brought to life by the county and WNZF Radio.

The award in his name was given to a retired army chaplain and Baptist pastor, known for his “calming, intelligent, reverent sermons,” in Lydon’s words: Lt. Col. Harry W. Gilman, a Flagler County resident since 2007, originally from Bridgeton, N.J.

Lt. Col. Harry W. Gilman (ret.), center, accepting the Flagler County Veterans of the Year award from David Lydon and Gary E. Dekay's widow. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Lt. Col. Harry W. Gilman (ret.), center, accepting the Flagler County Veterans of the Year award from David Lydon and Gary E. Dekay’s widow. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Dekay’s widow joined Lydon to present Gilman the award. He had few words. “When you’re from New Jersey and you retire, you ask God tyo show you the end of the rainbow. It was Flagler County,” he said to cheers. “Life is a precious gift. People are the best part of it. So I’m home, and I appreciate it very much. The only thing I’d have liked added to my tribute was, ‘and he’s tall, dark and handsome.’”

The ceremony also recognized winners of the Flagler County schools’ Veterans Day essay contest, which drew students who each wrote of their own experience with members of their family who are serving, or have served. “Just about every single one of them wrote about a family member that’s currently serving or has served, and its hits home to them and they were able to share some personal stories and insights,” Superintendent Jacob Oliva said.

The winners were Christian Norris and Anthony Dispenza of Matanzas High School, and Alexa Furra and Janay Thomas of Rymfire Elementary.

Still-Commissioner George Hanns, later in the day, with fellow-Commissioners Charlie Ericksen and, on stage at the guitar, Nate McLaughlin. Click on the image for larger view. (George Hanns)

Still-Commissioner George Hanns, later in the day, with fellow-Commissioners Charlie Ericksen and, on stage at the guitar, Nate McLaughlin. Click on the image for larger view. (George Hanns)

On the stage, there was Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, emceeing the event, there was Commissioner Charlie Ericksen, who’d just been re-elected, but in place of Barbara Revels, the commission chairman, and Commissioner George Hanns, there were the men who defeated them Tuesday, even though they’re still not commissioners: Dave Sullivan and Donald O’Brien. Revels was on a three-week cruise in the South Pacific. Hanns might as well have been. He was wandering below the stage with his trusty tripod, looking for new angles for his photographs. It seemed inexplicable that he wasn’t on stage, though there was room. Hanns, after all, had signed the contract making such things as the moving-wall visit possible. Even he couldn’t explain it. “I don’t know,” he said. “There’s no empty chairs. I wasn’t going to impose on them. I’m just an old veteran now.”

It would be 23 minutes into the program—well after he’d recognized a batch of officials in the crowd—that McLaughlin noticed Hanns, alongside Sheriff Jim Manfre. “With great honor and a little bit of heaviness of heart, a great veteran, a great man, a great servant of Flagler County for 24-plus years, Commissioner George Hanns,” McLaughlin said. Hanns got the applause he’d rather had last Tuesday. Then McLaughlin’s velvet stab: “What a great mentor he is, if you get a chance to work with him, I understand he’s free now.”

traveling memorial wall

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

7 Responses for “At Flagler Airport, Veterans Day Framed by Traveling Vietnam Memorial and Freedom Fest”

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    Happy Veterans Day.

    And thank you to all veterans for your service.

  2. TylerDurden says:

    Hopefully we will see new support for our veterans in the new administration.

  3. Rick Belhumeur says:

    After nearly two and a half decades as a Flagler County Commissioner, George Hanns deserved much more recognition than he got today. As a veteran himself and such a huge advocate of anything to do with fellow veterans, I think it’s shameful that his place was taken during the last Veteran’s Day ceremony of his tenure as a commissioner.

  4. BlueJammers says:

    To all veterans – thank you for serving our country.

  5. Donnis Hamilton says:

    It’s an honor to be Lt. Col. Gilman’s son-in-law. He is a gracious, humble man whose words have brought healing, humor, and hope to the lives of those his touches, from family and friends to neighbors, business owners and staff of places he visits, and those who he meets for the first time when a soul is laid to rest. I have never met a man who has been more of a father and an example of what it means to live your life at the service of your family, friends, and fellow man. I am pleased he has been recognized for his service to our nation. God bless America.

  6. Charles F. Ericksen, Jr says:

    If anyone needs help in finding a name on the wall, there is a tent, where representatives, will look up the name and tell you the part of the wall, where the fallen’s name appears. Otherwise you’ll never find it..
    I have too many friends names on the wall, to include the 6 heroes, I had to formally notify the family of their demise,

  7. The Oracle says:

    As a war time veteran and life member of the VFW, I always attend Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies (where ever I may be) to honor those who have served our country. The Flagler County ceremony was a top notch event. Thank you to everyone involved with all phases of the ceremony, job well done. I am looking forward to next year. God bless you all.

Leave a Reply

Read FlaglerLive's Comment Policy | Subscribe to the Comment Feed rss flaglerlive comment feed rss

More stories on FlaglerLive
Loading

Get FlaglerLive Alerts by Email

Sign Up for email alerts to new stories.

ADVERTISEMENTS

suppert flaglerlive flagler live palm coast flagler county news pierre tristam florida
news service of florida
Advertisement
FlaglerLive is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization | FlaglerLive.com P.O. Box 254263, Palm Coast, FL 32135 | Contact the Editor by email | (386) 586-0257 | Sitemap | Log in