Memorial Day weekend in Sun City is more than cookouts and trips to the beach. Residents salute America's Armed Forces with honors and ceremonies.
At Sun City's Memorial Day observances, guest speaker Maj. David Blanchard of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade at Hunter Army Airfield, reflected on honoring the memory of not only those who died in combat but those who pass quietly in hospitals and nursing homes after years of service.
"Today Americans will gather at cemeteries all over the country to honor the loyalty and bravery of our fallen and its noble calling military service. While today will typically be spent recalling the valor of men and women who died in combat, we must never forget those fine professionals who answered that noble calling to serve the people of the United States," Blanchard said. "Their passing did not make headlines but their lives and profound sense of duty and patriotism will resonate with the soldiers they met and trained, the missions they executed with dedication and the families they left behind."
As guests found seats and spots for golf carts at the ceremony, the Sun City Singers provided a program of patriotic songs.
The ceremony began with a parade of the Rudy Haumann Marching Unit comprised of members of the Sun City Veterans Association. At the head of the parade was the Bluffton High School Junior ROTC Color Guard followed by the Sun City Veterans Association Honor Guard.
Retired U.S. Army First Sgt. James Gilliard sang the national anthem followed with an invocation by Hunter Army Airfield garrison chaplain Maj. Steven Mickel.
At each Memorial Day ceremony, Sun City Veterans Association members who have passed are remembered with roses laid at the foot of the association's memorial wall displayed in front of the podium.
After a poignant performance by the Sun City Singers of "Say a Prayer for the Troops Over There," the colors were retired and everyone was invited to join the singing group in "God Bless America."
The colorful and patriotic ceremonies capped a weekend of community events that began with a popular sporting event.
The second annual Salute to the Military Softball Tournament, hosted by the Sun City Softball Club, took place May 25 at the New River Sports Park.
Teams from the 3rd Infantry Division at Hunter Army Airfield, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and the Sun City Softball Club Travel Team competed for bragging rights and fun.
Friends and families enjoyed a beautiful day, entertaining games and hot dogs, for which the Sun City league is famous.
The opening ceremonies, emceed by U.S. Army veteran Ed Kaponer, included the national anthem sung by three members of the Savannah Theatre, introductions of the teams and presentation of colors by the Sun City Veterans Association Color Guard.
Three recovering wounded warriors threw the first pitches. Catching were Cathy Spencer, Securitas site manager, a Navy veteran who served three tours in Iraq and is in the U.S. Naval Reserve; Keith Willis, director of common area maintenance and a 10-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran; and Keith Glatzer, son of Ross Glatzer, player and coach of the Travel Team and president of Sun City's Neighborhood Representative Council.
The Marines swept the tournament, with Sun City improving over last year's results by splitting their games. The Army, which lost two men at the last minute, put up a valiant fight fielding only nine players.
Plans are already under way for next year's tournament, according to club president Art Smallwood.