Published On: Tue, Nov 24th, 2020

Boca Raton Thanks Veterans for their Service Despite COVID-19

By Diane Emeott Korzen

Discipline. Humility. Bravery. 

That’s what it takes to serve in the U.S. Military, according to NJROTC Cadet Commander Evan Bycholski. To leave behind family, friends and familiar places, live on meals-ready-to-eat (MRE’s), and fight on the front lines is something most of us will never know. But we should thank those who do.

Boca Raton High School’s NJROTC was one of about a dozen groups appearing in the City of Boca Raton’s first-ever Virtual Veterans Day Ceremony, including: 

  • Fort Lauderdale Highlanders Bagpipe Band
  • Boca Raton Fire Rescue Honor Guard
  • Boca Raton High School Band
  • Cadet Commander Evan Bycholski, Boca Raton High School NJROTC
  • The American Bombshells
  • City of Boca Raton, Mayor Scott Singer
  • Coastmen Chorus
  • Habitat for Humanity Veterans Build
  • Cary Reichbach, Veteran and Grey Team Founder
  • Tracy Burkett Velez, Veteran and Commander of American Legion Post 277
  • Janet Hoose, Chairman of Southeast Florida Honor Flight
  • Andrea Rutherfoord, US Coast Guard Flotilla 36
  • Max Feige, Veteran and US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The morning virtual ceremony — and the afternoon “Giving Back To Our Veterans” appreciation bag distribution — were the brainchild of Community Events Coordinator Monika Amar, who was up until midnight the night before producing, with some participants still sending in their self-shot videos for editing into the hour-long program that aired on TV and online. 

“It was down to the wire, crazy,” she added.

The Ceremony is available to view on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkdpxtboRE0.

Amar said of the drive-thru gift bag distribution at the Community Center next to City Hall, “It’s something. I’m glad we were able to do it.” 

They ended up giving out 90 Veterans Day Appreciation bags! The remaining bags will be distributed to local veteran organizations, with several kept behind the desk at Boca Raton Community Center for Veterans still wishing to pick one up in the coming week.

The patriotically-colored gift bags contain a commemorative medallion, a coffee mug, coupons and discounts from area businesses and restaurants, plus informational brochures from veteran assistance organizations.

CRA Chair/City Council Member Monica Mayotte stopped by to hand out the gift bags and to thank veterans in person for serving. 

Mike Balme, who works at Sugar Sand Park’s Willow Theater also assisted.

Among those who came by to receive the bags were buddies since their 1952 service in the Korean War, Mel Grant, Army, and Eddie Gabay, Navy.

The Luts, Cathy who served as an Army nurse from 1961-65 at Fort Dix, and James who flew with the Navy from 1962-67 out of McGuire Air Force base, were stationed in the same town in New Jersey. They have now been married 54 years and have a daughter in the Army.  

Jean Paul Pilot, who served with the Army from 1966-69 during the Vietnam War, drove up with a big grin in his red convertible. 

This is the fourth Boca Veterans Day that Amar has hosted. “In 2017, my first Veteran’s Day, the event was still being held at Boca Municipal Cemetery on 4th Avenue and Camino Real. I wanted something more uplifting to differentiate the two events. Memorial Day is still at the Cemetery. In 2018 (and 2019) we moved Veteran’ Day to the larger and more open Countess De Hoernle Park across from Spanish River Library, and added a Veteran’s Breakfast.”

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