By: Sharon Aron Baron
The City of Tamarac along with the Veterans Affairs Committee held its Memorial Day Service Monday morning at Veterans Memorial Park honoring all Americans for their supreme sacrifice to defend our liberties.
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, and the Invocation was given by Murray Levine with the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Keynote speaker was Richard Crusan, Public Affairs Specialist Southcom, U.S. Southern Command.
Crusan was born in Jacksonville, Florida and entered military service as an Armor Crewman after graduating from Miami Palmetto Senior High School in 1981.
He told the audience that he enlisted in 1981 and said his grades in high school were “pathetic” and the Army was the only place that would take him.
“How many of you can sympathize with me?”
Four years later his commander asked, “How would you like to go to West Point?”
Crusan answered, “Sir, I’m stupid. I can’t read, I can’t write, West Point doesn’t want someone like me.” And his commander said, “You know Rich? They want someone just like you.”
He was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School in 1983 where he earned a regular Army appointment to the US Military Academy and received his commission in the U.S. Army in 1988 as a Military Police Officer.
Crusan’s career active duty assignments include Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Fort Polk, Louisiana; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. His deployments include Operations Just Cause and Promote Liberty in Panama, 1989 and 1990, respectively; Operations Desert Shield and Storm and Task Force Freedom in Southwest Asia, 1990 and 1991; and Operations Uphold Democracy and Secure Tomorrow in Haiti, 1994 and 2004.
He graduated in 1988 and 17 years later he retired in 2005.
He shared that for the first three years of each of his children’s lives he sang to them, My Country ’tis of Thee, This Land is Your Land, America The Beautiful, You’re a Grand Old Flag, God Bless America, The Star Spangled Banner and he said he’d finish with Rock-A-Bye Baby because that was the only lullaby he actually knew. His son Joseph, who is now 14, was two when his daycare provider told Crusan that she was impressed that his son knew the Star Spangled Banner. Crusan told her, “You’d better believe he does. All three of my kids do.”
He told the story of Tamarac resident Timothy Weiner who was a Tech Sergeant that was killed by an improvised explosive device eight years ago near Baghdad and was survived by his wife Debra and his son Jonathan. Timothy and Debra were high school sweethearts who went to Piper High School in Sunrise and had once worked at Albertsons. Timothy was 35 years old and only two years away from retirement from the military. His parents received the news that their son had died when two Air Force officers in uniform unexpectedly showed up at their door.
Crusan explained to the audience that was why we were there: to gather on days like today to remember them, and the ultimate sacrifice that they paid and he asked that we take the time to remember as many as we can.
After the keynote speech, winning essay selections were read by local elementary students who spoke about what Memorial Day meant to them.
The winners were:
Renaissance Charter School: Aiden Evans
Challenger Elementary School: Sophia Lopez-Garzon
Tamarac Elementary School: Maggie Majeski
Paul Kinney played “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes and Herbert Daley with the Veterans Affairs Committee Chair gave the Benediction and Mayor Dressler, Vice Mayor Bushnell, Commissioners Gomez, Glasser, and Placko all gave special messages.
At the end of the ceremony, VITAS Innovative Hospice Care provided those in attendance with refreshments.