Kudos going out to my Navarre, Fla., American Legion Post 382 for a terrific Memorial Day weekend! In late April I was contacted by 1st District Commander Sonny Decker and the post director of the Legion Riders, Jason ”Scooby” Skobel and was invited to take part in the Heroes Honor Festival that was going to take place inside the Daytona International Speedway over Memorial Day weekend. As I inquired what that was all about, I began tearing up as they shared with me that our Post 382 was taking Vietnam-era vets to a proper welcome home event. I felt not worthy after all these years; however, they convinced me to make the trip and needless to say, I was honored and proud to attend!
On Friday, May 27, nine veterans met at Post 382 at 6 am and then set out for Daytona Beach, some 445 miles east. We arrived at our Holiday Inn hotel seven hours later with the post picking up our accommodations. After settling in, the Legion Riders took us all out to lunch. Unfortunately, the Friday-night opening ceremonies and events were rained out. On Saturday morning we were in our seats; which turned out to be a beautiful monogrammed beach chair with the event logo on the back, and we were told to take them home after the event was over. We were able to sit in those wonderful seats by 9:15-ish about 20 rows from the stage with the opening day ceremonies starting at 10 am. A lot of tears flowed throughout the day as memories from 50+ years ago were brought back to life. The festival was fantastic with flyovers and skydivers; several speeches, including Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady along with Ann-Margret, with Lt. Col. Oliver North as keynote speaker and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, LCDR, making a guest appearance; several musical groups played throughout the day including Craig Morgan and Justin Moore; and the event ended just prior to 10 pm with Toby Keith’s two-hour performance to an announced crowd of over 31K.
Our van left Daytona at 8 am and we were back at our post by 2 pm, all safe and sound. A lot of tears were shed over the weekend; however, each of us was grateful to Post 382 for taking us on a most wonderful weekend. A big thank you going out to Ben Peterson for all his effort to host this event, and to all the sponsors and vendors who helped make this event such a success!
Proud and now humbled to have served, I remain;
Gerald V. Foster