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A beacon of hope

Special to the Star

Despite the threat of bad weather, the dedication ceremony for the Honor Walk at Veterans Memorial Park in Beacon Hill, held on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, drew a huge crowd and was more spectacular than one could have imagined.

The ceremony, emceed by Joe Paul, Gulf County veterans service officer, opened with a moving invocation led by Chaplain Capt. Jacob Williams, where he prayed that the Honor Walk be a “beacon of hope and inspiration for the generations that come after, telling the story that freedom comes at a price and that our nation’s veterans have been more than willing to pay that price.”

Gen. Simpler addresses the Veterans Day ceremony
The jet flyover
The flags ripple in the breeze
The NJROTC Honor Guard
Laura Kerr

The 601st Air and Space Operations Center Honor Guard from Tyndall Air Force Base along with cadets from Port St Joe High School NJROTC raised the 15 foot by 25 foot American flag up the 70-foot flagpole, which drew gasps from the audience. As the flag was being raised to the top, Mary Lou Cumbie sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.

Raising the flag

Low clouds started moving in, but the 325th Fighter Wing T-38s and F-22s found a gap in the clouds and awed the crowd with a flyover drawing cheers and applause.

After the Pledge of Allegiance, George Duren, Honor Walk committee chairman remarked how the sacrifice of veterans and their families inspired the building of the memorial.

“The military service of veterans should never be forgotten, always honored, and the American flag that all fought under, and so many died for, should always be respected,” he said.

Major General Brian Simpler, the keynote speaker at the dedication, gave a moving speech that tied American history, the writing of the National Anthem, and Veterans Day to the challenges we, as a country, are facing today.

“Our democracy, our very freedom, and our 244-year-old republic - they have no guarantees to last.  And in fact, the uncertainty of our future survival as a nation is captured in the National Anthem that we just heard so beautifully rendered.  It ends with a question and a challenge. ‘Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?’ When Francis Scott Key wrote this, during the War of 1812, the Capitol in Washington DC had already been burned to the ground, he was asking with great uncertainty if we still had a country,” said the general.

“So today we pause to honor the millions of brave women and men who have answered that challenge, who have raised their right hand and swore an oath to uphold our Constitution,” he said. “Many of whom have given the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that our flag still flies, and our families continue to live in freedom.”

The Honor Walk dedication concluded with Cumbie leading the crowd in singing “America the Beautiful,” and the remarkable Laura Kerr performing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.

The Honor Walk Committee wishes to thank everyone that participated and all who attended, including our honored guests VFW Post 10069 Commander Bob Ray and American Legion Post 116 Commander John Miick, and the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners.

Space remains available, so the Honor Walk is continuing to take brick orders. Email to and they will send you an order form.