Veterans Day ceremonies: Residents in Okaloosa, Walton counties to honor nation's heroes

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

A parade, the unveiling of life-size statues of women veterans, live music, and several ceremonies are among the many ways that communities in Okaloosa and Walton counties will honor their military heroes on Veterans Day on Thursday.

The following events will pay them tribute:

Crestview

The city’s annual Veterans Day Parade is set to begin at 9 a.m. on Main Street, followed by the annual Veterans Day Ceremony at 11 a.m. in front of the Okaloosa County Veterans Memorial next to the county courthouse on Main Street.

The parade, during which U.S. flags will be handed out to spectators, will begin at Hub City Smokehouse and proceed north past the courthouse. To make way for parade preparations, Main Street from State Road 85 to Beech Avenue and Courthouse Terrace will be closed starting at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Related:Board seeks to add names to Okaloosa County Veterans Memorial in downtown Crestview

Members of the Crestview High School Chorus sing the national anthem at a previous Veterans Day ceremony. Several events are scheduled for this year's Veterans Day on Thursday.

The events are sponsored by American Legion Post 75 and the Main Street Crestview Association.

DeFuniak Springs

The city’s 16th annual Veterans Day Ceremony starts at 11 a.m. at the John V. Lawson Amphitheater in Chipley Park on Circle Drive. It will include live music, a three-volley salute, flags given to attendees and remarks by Mayor Bob Campbell, Master of Ceremonies/Commander of VFW Post 4437 Wade Wilmoth and keynote speaker/Air Force veteran/City Manager Robert Thompson.

Destin

HarborWalk Village will host a celebration from 4-7:30 p.m. A ceremony will take place on the main stage at 4 p.m., with entertainment by Cadillac Willy from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The ceremony will include historical remembrance and recognition of all branches of the services, patriotic entertainment and keynote speakers.

Fort Walton Beach

Starting at 11 a.m., the Veterans Tribute Tower Committee will host its Veterans Day Ceremony and Remembrance Day Recognition near the Veterans Tribute Tower at Beal Memorial Cemetery at 316 Beal Parkway N.W.

Fort Walton Beach High School Junior ROTC cadets place flags at the graves of the more than 1,600 veterans interred at Beal Memorial Cemetery prior to this year's Memorial Day ceremony.  The cadets will do the same thing, with help from the Fort Walton Beach Police Department, before the Veterans Day observance at the cemetery.

Participating will be Royal Air Force Wing Commander Michael Knapton and members of his command and their families from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom stationed at Eglin Air Force Base.

The keynote speaker will be Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Commander, Col. Kevin Trujillo. Also participating will be the Rev. Cecil Williams from Gregg Chapel AME Church, Reid Soria from Autism Sings, the rifle team from the Fort Walton Beach Police Department honor guard, students from Liza Jackson Preparatory School and the cadet volunteer flag placement team and cadet color guard from the Fort Walton Beach High School Air Force Junior ROTC.

Veterans and other community members gather for Monday's Memorial Day Ceremony at Beal Memorial Cemetery in Fort Walton Beach.

During the ceremony, individuals and organizations will be invited to place a small bouquet in the Community Wreath remembering the 1,800 Veterans laid to rest at the cemetery. All are kindly reminded that the traditional reading of names of the recent fallen will be on Memorial Day 2022.

Thursday’s ceremony will be live-streamed on the city of Fort Walton Beach information site and the Veterans Tribute Tower Facebook site by RJ Murdock. The inclement weather fallback site will be at American Legion Post 235 at 105 Hollywood Blvd. N.W.

Freeport

The city’s ceremony will start at 2 p.m. at the Freeport Veterans Memorial at Casey Park at 122 W. State Road 20.

The event will include remarks by Mayor and Navy veteran Russ Barley, special recognition of veterans by Tim Ard of the Freeport Veterans Memorial at Casey Park Committee and keynote speaker William Blanken.

Also participating will be the Walton County Sheriff’s Office honor guard and the Walton High School Air Force Junior ROTC. There will be a gun salute and the playing of Taps, the playing of the National Anthem by a trumpeter, singing by the Freeport Elementary School SophistiCats choir and a special surprise presentation.

Okaloosa Island

The unveiling of eight bronze, life-size statues of women who made significant military service contributions during periods of major conflicts throughout U.S. history is set for 2 p.m. at Veterans Park, next to the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center.

The honorees:These are the 8 female vets to be featured in memorial at Okaloosa Veterans Park in 2021

The statues represent women veterans ranging from one who served in the Revolutionary War to one who served in the war in Afghanistan. 

The ceremony will include special music, a presentation of the colors by the Coast Guard honor guard, a welcome message from County Commission Chairwoman Carolyn Ketchel, a presentation by the Daughters of the American Revolution and VIPs from the Air Force, including the keynote speaker.