OKEECHOBEE — A crowd of area residents turned out for the Veterans Day observance in Flagler Park in downtown Okeechobee on Monday, Nov. 11.
In the front row, Gold Star mother Pamela Suzch Nettle Decerio held a framed drawing of her son, Shawn Michael Suzch. Shawn was career military, she said. He was killed when a suicide bomber pushed a baby carriage with a bomb into a mall in Afghanistan. “Look at his eyes,” she said referencing the framed drawing. “He had my eyes. He was my boy.” She said she had a hard time after her son’s death in 2008, but now she thinks he’s on a bigger mission from God. She pointed to his name on the memorial. She said it’s important to remember him and the reasons he served at events like the Veterans Day program.
Nearby, World War II Navy veterans James Surles and Thomas Montieph traded stories. Mr. Surles said he had a cousin killed at Pearl Harbor, but not on one of the ships. He said he served in India, the Pacific and Japan. Pointing to scars on his arm, he explained he was exposed to radiation from the second atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan. Mr. Montieph said he saw combat in World War II while serving on the USS Wadsworth, a destroyer.
Cpl. Jack Nash of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, a veteran of the Marine Corps, said the most significant product ever produced by the United States is the American veteran.
“We honor every single man and woman who proudly served and wore that uniform,” he said.
Cpl. Nash said veterans served because “we loved our country; we loved our way of life; we loved each other; and, most of all, we loved everyone we vowed to protect — those we left behind.”
Editor’s note: Gold Star mothers and Gold Star fathers are the parents of military service members who died while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States or by an international terrorist attack. The Gold Star lapel button was established by an Act of Congress in 1947.