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    Giving meaning to Memorial Day

    Parents take their children to a Palm Harbor service to give them a lesson in history and sacrifice.

    By ROBERT FARLEY, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 28, 2002


    PALM HARBOR -- Bob Hartland asked his two daughters Monday morning if they knew why they were off from school.

    photo
    [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
    Bill Larsen, a Navy veteran of World War II, places flags at veterans' graves Monday at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens before the start of Memorial Day service.
    "Neither could give me a good answer," Hartland said.

    So he decided to take 11-year-old Julia and 9-year-old Jaynee to the annual Memorial Day observance at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens.

    "I was sort of worried by their answers," said Hartland, of Palm Harbor. "I think it's important."

    Julia said she at least knew it was Memorial Day. After Monday's ceremony, she knew a little more.

    "It's a day when we remember how all the people in the Army died for our freedom," she said.

    The Hartlands were among a couple of hundred people who attended the annual service at Curlew Hills. That's a little more than usual. A renewed patriotism and respect for the military amid the war on terrorism brought out some new faces.

    "Our nation has changed significantly since last fall," said Capt. Robert A. Riggle Jr., the ceremony's guest speaker. "Indeed, the whole world."

    "Now, more than ever, we recognize what it means to honor those who have died in service to our nation," he said.

    Riggle served active duty in the Marines for eight years before joining the Marine Corps Reserve in October 2000. He was activated Sept. 12 to participate in the "bucket brigades" to help clear rubble from the ruins of the World Trade Center buildings.

    "I saw and smelled and tasted what utter devastation, evil is," Riggle said.

    Riggle was activated again Nov. 10, this time for a year, to U.S. Central Command in Tampa. He was deployed to Afghanistan on Nov. 30 and worked as a public affairs officer there until Feb. 1. Riggle said he was struck by the country's poverty and innocent victims.

    The war against terrorism is a new kind of war, a more personal one, Riggle said. And to win will require the resolve of the American people.

    "I challenge you to maintain your will to defeat terrorism," he said.

    As is tradition, the ceremony began with the presention of the colors by the Dunedin High School junior ROTC and ended with Lyn B. Watkins playing Taps on the bugle.

    The ceremony also included reading the names of local Fleet Reserve Association members who have died in the last year. A bell tolls in their honor. This year, the bell rang three times.

    Warren Vail of Crystal Beach brought his 5-year-old son, Matthew, to the ceremony to honor his many relatives who served in the military.

    "Five years old," he said, "is not too young to learn the values and sacrifices everyone makes."

    -- Robert Farley can be reached at 445-4185 or farley@sptimes.com.

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