NEW PORT RICHEY — Freedom isn’t free, speakers at the Rotary Club of New Port Richey’s Salute to Veterans said Wednesday.
The service club paid tribute to more than 80 local veterans in advance of Veterans Day on Monday.
The main speaker, Ret. Major William Kevin Morey, thanked the veterans for their service. His 20 years in the military service included service in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later worked at a veterans affairs office.
“You paid a price,” Morey said. “There are some of us in this room who know people who paid the ultimate price.”
Morey said a definition of a veteran “is a person who has put it all on the line, somebody who has stepped up and said, ‘I’m putting everything that I am, everything that I will ever be, everything that I will ever have.’ ”
“I see some guys here, the World War II vets, God bless you all,” Morey said. “I hate to think of this world if you had not stepped up and done what needed to be done.” His remark garnered loud applause.
The next generations must be sure “that torch never goes out,” Morey said.
As for benefits, Morey urged veterans to review their medical records with a representative at Veterans of Foreign Wars, Amvets, Disabled American Veterans or some other service agency.
“That (advocate) needs to be your new best friend,” Morey said. “That needs to be your best battle buddy” to plead cases for medical benefits.
At the start of the program, Gulf High School NJROTC students posted the colors.
The Rev. Guy Sanders, pastor of First Baptist Church of New Port Richey, gave the invocation.
After the pledge of allegiance, Julie Black sang “God Bless America.”
Steve Booth explained the history of the poppy, which became a symbol of the sacrifice made by soldiers because was one of the few plants that could grow on scorched battlefields. Genesis School students passed out poppies to audience members.
Paul Lembo was recognized for organizing the event.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, was among the score of guests.