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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Dozens of flags waved in the breeze over Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday, representing the United States and all the branches of the armed forces.

The Alachua County annual Veterans Day Ceremony honored veterans of the armed forces through speeches, poetry and music.

The event was put on by the Alachua County Veterans Memorial Committee and the Malcolm Randall VA Memorial Center.

A special tribute was given to veterans of World War II, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The two groups showed the "greatest generation passing on the torch to the newest generation," said Jim Lynch, director of the Alachua County Office of Veterans Services and a Vietnam veteran.

Keynote speaker, retired Maj. Gen. Dave Kratzer, spoke about the differences between the military of World War II and today and the honor veterans deserve.

"No one loves peace more than someone who's experienced war," he said at the ceremony.

Kratzer works as UF's associate vice president for student affairs.

Various organizations hoisted tents and pulled up trailers around the stage, including the Young Marines, the Korean War Veterans Association, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, the Military Support Group for Alachua County and Gainesville High School's Navy Junior ROTC, which sold hot dogs and hamburgers.

The Military Support Group started four years ago, said founder Jim Yakubsin, who spent 33 years in the Marine Corps.

Yakubsin said the group is there to support soldiers.

"That's what they want to do," he said. "They want to protect us."

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The Korean Veterans Association, which participated in the presentation of colors, was there to be "veterans helping veterans," said retired Army Col. Jake Feaster, who graduated UF in the ROTC in 1952.

"We keep alive their memory so Korea is not a forgotten war," he said.

Lynch said the annual Veterans Day celebration started in 1989 when the memorial park was built.

Plans for the park started in 1983, he said, when war widow Nina Stanley came to a meeting of the Veterans' Advisory Board asking where she could go on Veterans Day to remember her husband, who was buried overseas.

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