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Thanks for all they do

A woman with ties to the military gives many hours honoring veterans of all eras.

By THERESA BLACKWELL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 3, 2007


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CLEARWATER - Sunday's third annual Clearwater Veterans Appreciation Day at Clearwater High School will be a day for thanking veterans.

But for one of the event's organizers, the thanks starteddecades ago.

Dianne Magee, 55, of St. Petersburg, traces her ties to the military as far back as two grandfathers and a grandmother who served in World War I. When she was a teen, another war took someone she loved. Appreciating veterans has been her avocation ever since.

Sunday's free event gives people a chance to thank veterans, learn more about military service and enjoy some military pageantry.

For starters, a member of the U.S. Special Operations Parachute Team will unfurl the flag from the sky during the national anthem. Then Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David Garza, deputy commander of Marine Forces at Central Command in Tampa, will speak, followed by a parade.

Later, the city of Dunedin Pipe Band will play and then the parachute team and the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon will perform. The day will end with music and a flyover of planes from MacDill Air Force Base.

For Magee, a technical writer for a defense contractor, doing what she can to thank veterans and take care of them is part of the air she breathes.

"Because they do so much for us," she said. "We're so lucky about the way we live, the way we are allowed to live here."

Besides her military grandparents, both Magee's parents served in the Navy in World War II. Her father was a signalman on a ship accompanying aircraft carriers in the Pacific. And her mother was a radio operator innaval intelligence.

As a teen growing up in Niagara Falls, she fell for David Koehler, and they would go to the soda shop and dances in the park. When he graduated in 1968, he and his best friend joined the Marine Corps and they were sent to Vietnam.

"It was that innocent time when nothing bad is ever going to happen to you, but then it does," she said. "He was killed over there in 1969 - June 4th - I'll neverforget."

Soon she was drawn to visit veterans recovering in local hospitals. It was therapy for her and for them, too. She brought cookies, played cards. She would talk, but mostly she would listen.

When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., opened in 1982, she took a group of veterans to the dedication. Then she returned to help read the names on the wall for the 10th and 20th anniversaries of the dedication. And in a few days, she'll read names for the 25th anniversary.

When she moved to Florida in 1996, Magee said she couldn't believe how much local groups were doing for veterans. It's good for the veterans and for the people who honor them.

"You meet so many wonderful people," she said. "It justsnowballs."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or 727 445-4170.

If you go

Clearwater Veterans Appreciation Day

Event will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Clearwater High School, 540 S Hercules Ave. Those unable to walk from the parking lot can be dropped off at the Arcturas Avenue entrance. For more information, visit www.cvad.org.

[Last modified November 2, 2007, 22:42:31]


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