Port St. Joe programs honors veterans

The John C. Gainous VFW Post 10069’s Veterans Day program was moved indoors with cloudy skies still looming from Tropical Storm Nicole. A guest speaker canceled their appearance, and with school out for inclement weather, a lot of the planned program was cut.

But the circumstances couldn’t hinder the celebratory atmosphere in the VFW’s building in Highland View.

Amidst patriotic decor and wise cracks about this military branch or another, about 50 people gathered into the lodge’s small back room to commemorate the occasion.

“Veterans Day is an interesting holiday for veterans,” said Bob Ray, the post’s commander. “Most of our, what you would call, holidays are actually memorials. But Veterans Day is the actual day that all veterans get to enjoy — a day of recognition and a day where we can actually let our hair down and have a good time.”

The program, which lasted about half an hour, featured speeches from local officers in the post and the Auxiliary post. It recognized the service members and former service members in the room, many of whom came in uniform.

Then, to carry out the festivities, the program adjourned and the attendees gathered in the VFW’s main room for a celebratory feast.

Just over the Highland View Bridge, preparations for another celebratory meal were already underway.

In the parking lot of Zion Faire Missionary Baptist Church, rows of chairs had been set up under a tent. 

The North Port St. Joe Veterans Monument, which was unveiled in front of the church on the Fourth of July, stood proudly to the left of the podium where Judge Elijah Smiley and a group of gathered officials addressed a gathered crowd of about 30.

The stone pyramid proudly brandished 20 new names of community members who served in the armed forces, with organizers explaining that they plan to make a tradition of adding names.

“When we’ve all gone, that monument will still be there,” said Smiley. “There are 318 names on there. What we’re doing now is adding an additional 20, and next year we’ll add more.”

As the program adjourned, celebrators enjoyed smoked hamburgers and hotdogs and thanked their neighbors and family for their service.


Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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