The Christmas Island Style’s Salute to Veterans was held Tuesday at Marco Charter Middle School in honor of those who served in years past and those currently serving. With retired Lt. Col. Bill Howey of the United States Marine Corp as the featured speaker, those who attended seemed to listen with the utmost attention.
“This evening I have been asked to speak about Dec. 7, as well as present a tribute to all of our servicemen and women,” Lt. Col. Howey told the audience. “This is the easiest task I’ve ever been given.”
With 32 years of service and three tours in Vietnam to his name, Lt. Col. Howey spoke in a strong, steady voice, elaborating on the bonds of service, expressing his pride in the American military and giving thanks to the veterans who were there.
“To everyone still living from (the greatest generation), we salute you,” he said. “To your brethren who went before you, we remember and honor them as well.”
Breaking his emotional speech only once, Lt. Col. Howey took a moment before describing the sacrifice those who don the military uniform must endure.
“Each and every time, it is America’s youth that steps up and signs that check that is made out to the America people in the sum of everything,” he said. “Up to, and including, my life.”
After his speech, three World War II veterans stood to a loud applause, and veterans of other wars, ranging from the Korean to Vietnam, stood as well.
The Marco Charter Middle School band performed six songs after Lt. Col. Howey’s speech, all takes on Christmas tunes, highlighting some of the band’s talents with many solos throughout the performance.
Last, but certainly not least, Marco Island resident, architect and veteran Herb Savage, and his wife, Emily, led the crowd in an enthusiastic version of “God Bless America.”
“He was great,” Savage said of Howey’s speech. “His approach and attitude is tremendous.”
For the children who were in attendance, Steve Stefanides, chairman of Christmas Island Style, which sponsored the event, hoped that they would understand from Lt. Col. Howey’s speech that freedom comes with a price.
“A lot of people came before them for all of our freedoms,” he said.
As Lt. Col. Howey began to leave, a small woman came up to thank him for his service, giving a handshake and a slight bow before saying goodbye. Rajani Thangavelu, an almost 30-year employee at the Veterans Hospital in Naples, said she came out to give her salute to veterans.
“War was, and is, so painful, no mater how you look at it,” she said. “The veterans have all given up an important part of life to serve,” she said.