Local officials joined members of American Legion Post 133 in Palmetto Bay on Memorial Day, May 28, for a solemn ceremony to remember and honor those service men and women of past and current conflicts who gave their lives in the service of our country.
Post Commander Lou Lesinski, who was presiding over his first Memorial Day ceremony, reflected on the true meaning of the day, especially for members of Post 133.
“A lot of folks think Memorial Day is a holiday for fun and shopping, but it’s to remember the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Lesinski said. “We gather today to remember them. So it’s a very somber Memorial Day ceremony. My father was in World War II. I was in Southeast Asia in ’69-70. Several members of the post were either in combat positions or in the service somewhere.”
The honor guard was comprised of members of the Navy Junior ROTC program at Felix Varela High School. Members are Juan Alvarez, Christopher Sicle, Spencer Sosnowski and Alexander Margini.
Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk said after the ceremony that her daughter had lost a close friend during a recent helicopter crash in Afghanistan, which really brought the significance of the day close to home.
“Today we honor the courage and bravery of the many who sacrificed all so that we continue to live in a democratic country,” Stanczyk said. “The absolute strength of conviction to serve and protect our country is deeply engrained in our service members but also in their families and loved ones who must continue to endure even with their loss.
“Those of us who share this experience understand that depth of commitment. Memorial Day allows us to express our gratitude for the service of the men and women of our armed forces, and the sacrifices made by them and their families.”
Diane Kessell of Cutler Bay sang both the National Anthem and the lyrics to Taps without musical accompaniment during a moving part of the ceremony in front of the legion post as members and guests looked on.
Miami-Dade County District 8 Commissioner Lynda Bell attended the ceremony with the other guests and commented afterward on what it meant to her.
“As we celebrate Memorial Day, in honor of those who have gone before us, fighting for this country and fighting for our rights, fighting to preserve our first amendment rights, our freedoms, the fact that we can assemble in this great country, the fact that we can do everything that we do, especially with religious freedom, it means the world to me,” Bell said. “Let’s not forget what Memorial Day is about. Memorial Day is to memorialize and honor those sacrifices of the men and women in the military who have gone before us. That’s what this day is about.”
Although the ceremony took place outside, inside in the post’s main room spread out on tables were about 60 posters handmade by area studengts to honor specific servicemen who had died.
Bill James, post manager, said that he felt that America’s fallen heroes deserve to be remembered, and not just on Memorial Day.
“It’s unfortunate in a way that it’s only once a year,” James said. “In a way it should be 365 days a year. We see in the media frequently of our young guys coming back in boxes and we need to be cognizant of that and respectful of that every day.”