Veterans Memorial Park

Locals celebrate Veterans Day at the park

  • November 13, 2015
  • /   Marketta Davis, | Photos by Tony Giberson
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Active duty and former military personnel, youth organizations, and other groups show their support for the nations veterans during the annual Veterans Day parade in downtown Pensacola Wednesday morning.

Tom Tocco served in the Army during the Vietnam War. He and his wife, Pam, live in St. Louis but wouldn't miss Veterans Day in Pensacola for the world. The celebrations are the best he and Pam have ever seen, and they've seen many.

"I have a place on Fort Pickens Road, and I love Pensacola," Tocco said. "I come down here every Veterans Day, and I come for all the celebrations. It's wonderful."

The Toccos were among hundreds of veterans, residents and their children who gathered in Veterans Memorial Park to recognize Veterans Day. Events included watching the Gulf Coast Advocacy's annual parade, attending the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation's observance and mingling at the Cumulus Radio Veterans Day Celebration.

As parade participants began trickling into the park at 9:30 a.m., large groups of people already were beginning to gather for the Park Foundation's observance and festivities as the chatter of patriotism and America floated among guests.

"I think it's important for us to have our children here and to teach them what the veterans have done to reward us the privileges and the freedoms that we have that, I think, a lot of people just take for granted," said Gulf Breeze resident Melissa Simmons. "I think if we don't make it a priority to teach that to our children, they're going to miss out on a lot of history, and a lot of respect for the men and women that have sacrificed, and their families."

Simmons, like many at the park, was there to pay homage to all those who serve, including her father who was in the Army.

This year's Park Foundation observance was bittersweet as two plaques were dedicated to Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley and Senior Airman Nathan Sartain — Pensacola-area servicemen who recently lost their lives in Afghanistan. And while the difference in Veterans Day and Memorial Day is in honoring those who served and are no longer with us, Rear Adm. Donald Quinn said both are about lessons.

"We need celebrations like this to remember, to teach," Quinn said. "We celebrate the accomplishments of the past while looking forward to a bright future bought with the sacrifices of many."

Commenting on those killed in action and the 11 bronze plaques placed in the park to represent each of the fallen servicemen, Col. Dave Barraclough said it was important that the community honor and cherish the sacrifice of Sibley and Sartain.

"These two great Americans, local heroes, will be missed by many but they'll never be forgotten," Barraclough said.

The Veterans Memorial Park Foundation was pleased with the observance, said Butch Hansen, foundation president.

"It's a wonderful community experience," he said. "Pensacola does this better than any place I've been and I've been lots of places in my 30 years in the Navy."


For more photos and video of the Gulf Coast Advocacy Council's Veterans Day Parade, the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation's observance and locals talking about the today's celebrations, visit

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Veterans Memorial Park