By: Sharon Aron Baron
The City of Tamarac, along with the Veterans Affairs Committee, held its Memorial Day Service unveiling the new “Veterans Wall of Honor” monument to hundreds of residents in attendance.
This year, the city asked for names of Veterans in the city who wanted to have their name included. So far they have received 600 names which were featured on the monument, with room for more.
Created by artist Zachary Knudson of Coral Springs using three-quarter inch tempered glass, the monument encircles the park’s existing eternal flame sculpture and will be illuminated at night.
The Taravella High School Concert Band, led by Director Cheldon Williams once again provided the music, and the National Anthem was performed by Chantal Deshaies. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Dominic Gray, Veterans Affairs Committee Chair, the invocation was given by Veronica Palomino with the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Presentation of Colors was performed by the Broward Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard.
Keynote speaker was Captain A.J. Tolbert, U.S. Air Force (Ret.) and Chair of the Department of Aviation & Safety at Florida Memorial University.
Captain Tolbert began his military service as an Air Force ROTC cadet at the University of South Carolina where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force in 1975. His first duty assignment was at Whiteman AFB, MO where he served as a Deputy Combat Crew Commander and missile launch officer. His next duty assignment was Chief Disaster Preparedness at Spangdahlem AFB, Germany during which he was selected to attend undergraduate pilot training at Vance AFB, OK. As a pilot, he was stationed at Warner Robbins, AFB, GA where he flew the KC 135, and finally at Sheppard AFB, TX where he was a T37 instructor pilot.
He separated from the Air Force in 1987 and went on to complete a 21-year career with American Airlines. He has over 17,000 hours of flight time and holds type rating in the Boeing 737 & 727; the Airbus 300-600; and the McDonald Douglas 11. He has been serving as the Chair of the Department of Aviation & Safety at Florida Memorial University since 2008.
He talked about the days when military service wasn’t always appreciated.
“I remember when protesters would come out to our drill field on the campus of the University of South Carolina back in the early 70’s and heckle us as we performed our drilling maneuvers,” said Tolbert. “They would come beside us step-for-step and yell that we were misguided and being used as pawns. Although many of us wanted to break ranks and get physical, we were ordered simply to ignore them.”
He was required to wear his uniform every Thursday to class, which he says made him a very unpopular college student. He said in recent years, those attitudes have changed, and he knows he speaks for Veterans everywhere when the expressions of appreciation for their service is welcome, as well as music to their ears.
Tolbert said that the spouses of those that served deserve an equal amount of accolades and reminded the audience to not forget to thank them for their service.
“While I was pulling seven-day-a-week alert duty on base or a 45-day temporary assignment overseas, my wife was left at home to tow the line.”
Tolbert who appeared wearing a red jacket, explained to the audience that he was a member of the Miami Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. He said that anyone is welcome to join the chapter, and they don’t necessarily have to have any connection with the military, or be African-American.
“Membership is open to anyone that shares our goals, which is honoring the accomplishments and perpetuating the history of African-Americans who participated in air crew, ground crew and operation support training in the Army, Air Force Corp during World War II.”
During closing, Paul Kinney played “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes and Herbert Daley with the Veterans Affairs Committee Chair gave the benediction. Mayor Dressler, Vice Mayor Glasser, Commissioners Gomez, Bushnell and Placko all gave special messages.
At the end of the ceremony the commission unveiled the new monument which was obscured in paper. Audience members then viewed the panels to find their name, or a loved ones, etched in the glass.