SARASOTA | A crowd in excess of 1,500 participated in the seventh annual Veterans Day Mass at the Sarasota National Cemetery Nov. 11. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by 24 priests of the Diocese for the celebration of Mass in Patriot Plaza. Deacons from across the Diocese also participated in the Mass.
“The Mass allows the Catholic community to express their love and affection and their desire for God’s blessing on the veterans and those who have gone before us,” Bishop Dewane said. “We honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, many of whom are buried nearby. We also pray for the families they may have left behind. We pray for those who served and returned, and for those who continue to serve in the armed forces today. We gather to pray for and honor those who have served, to those who have sacrificed everything to ensure that we have the freedoms we cherish today.”
Moved by the power of the Mass was Angelo Palmiere, 93, of Nokomis and Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Palmiere served in a tank destroyer unit attached to the 4th Infantry Division and took part in the Normandy landings at Utah Beach. He served until 1945.
“It is so nice to have the veterans honored and remembered,” Palmiere said. “I lost many friends in Europe and there are so few of us left today. It is good to know that we won’t be forgotten.”
Prior to the Mass, a wreath was presented by Lise Pommois of France. As a young girl of Jewish ancestry, Pommois survived the Nazi occupation of France by hiding for her life, and is now a World War II historian and author.
Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane and the priests, escorted by the Knights of Columbus color corps, proceeded to the nearby graves as those in attendance sang “God Bless America.” Bishop Dewane, the priests, the deacons, more than 30 members of the Knights of Columbus honor guard and all present gathered in silent prayer while “Taps” was played on a bugle.
A display was set up nearby with flags representing the branches of the U.S. armed forces including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines. Also on display was a wooden cross with candles and a commemorative wreath.
To recall the ultimate sacrifice of some soldiers, there was also a “fallen soldier battle cross,” which included a white cross with dog tags hanging from it, as well as a rifle with its bayonet embedded in the ground, with a helmet poised on top and a pair of empty military boots at the base.