Before unveiling and dedicating the flag pole and stone, American Legion Commander Larry Carpenter spoke to the crowd, reminding everyone that "freedom isn't free."
"It's going to hit you hard," Carpenter said before unveiling the sturdy stone memorial beneath the 40-foot flag pole that was dedicated Saturday to all veterans at Clement Taylor Park.
Although the flag pole has been standing guard at the park for more than two months, on Saturday, Dec. 1, Destin's American Legion Post 296 and the city of Destin officially dedicated the flag pole and the stone memorial to those who dedicate their lives to us.
Destin's mayor, Sam Seevers, gave thanks to the American Legion and everyone involved with making the almost $7,300 memorial a reality.
"This is going to leave a legacy for all of our children," said Seevers.
In part, the stone memorial reads: “Let us live a life of good citizenship and patriotism that is worthy of our veterans’ sacrifices and their gifts to the world. This memorial is dedicated to the heroic and selfless acts performed by all veterans who bring freedom to the world.”
The flag pole and stone memorial were made possible by a large donation from Janet Cass, a longtime Destin resident.
"When I heard about the efforts of the American Legion to install a flag at Clement Taylor, I immediately wanted to be involved," said Cass.
Cass said the community warmly welcomed her and her two children when they moved here in the ’70s, allowing them to lay down roots and establish a home here on the Emerald Coast, where she later became a teacher at Destin Elementary School and served on the Environmental Committee for the city of Destin for a number of years.
Cass called the dedication ceremony "a symbolic act, honoring the veterans and showing pride in America at this beautiful location."
Initially the memorial was to be dedicated to only veterans of recent wars, but they later reconsidered and expanded the honor to all those who have served throughout history.
Providing veterans with a sense of community and family, the American Legion was founded in the wake of World War I to provide benefits and support to the soldiers returning from Europe. Today the American Legion has grown to include nearly three million members in more than 14,000 posts worldwide, but the general goal of the legion has remained the same — to provide support to veterans and their families, and to promote honor and patriotism within a community.
If you want to learn more about the American Legion and their activities, locally or nationally, call 837-3818, visit them online at legion.org or stop by the Legion headquarters at 311 Main Street.