This year's guest speaker was retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel R. Bancroft McKittrick.
As retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel R. Bancroft McKittrick walked toward the podium set up at the amphitheater at Rockefeller Gardens, the sun shone bright in the sky and the American flag, at half-mast, waved in the gentle breeze.
He faced a sizable crowd, gathered for the city's annual Memorial Day Remembrance Service held on Monday, May 31, and spoke of courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity — all qualities he said were fundamental for those in military service.
“On this day, we remember the fallen and the liberties and freedoms we enjoy thanks to the sacrifices of so many generations of men and women made on our behalf," said McKittrick, an Ormond Beach Vietnam War veteran who served from 1968 to 1994.
This year's celebrations may look a little different, with fewer public events held, but McKittrick said that, while fun, sometimes the activities cause them to lose sight of what Memorial Day is all about: a somber day to reflect on those who lost their lives fighting for America.
He recalled some lost in recent years in Afghanistan and Iraq, and paid tribute to his friend Marine 2nd Lt. James McGarry who lost his life in Vietnam.
It's up to us, McKittrick said, to keep their memories alive.
“We are all duty-bound to remember our fallen, to tell their stories, and to care for their families who need our support when struck by tragic loss," he said.
McKittrick also highlighted the veterans that remain with us today, and said that as a nation, we need to ensure the survivors also get the mental health and medical support they need.
In addition to McKittrick's remarks, the city event — jointly presented by the Memorial Day Remembrance Committee and American Legion Post 267 —also featured music by the Daytona Beach Concert Band, a wreath laying ceremony, and presentation of American Legion's Patriot of the Year award. Mayor Bill Partington also issued a proclamation.
“We gather this morning to honor, to remember and to pay our respects," Partington said. "We honor the fallen and all those who serve, but especially the fallen on this day. We remember their sacrifice, their service and we respect the responsibility that each of us have as Americans to honor their ultimate sacrifice by living the best possible life in order to create a great society.”