THE ISSUE: Fifteenth annual Purple Heart ceremony.

OUR OPINION: Celebrate their service and never forget their sacrifices.

“They shed their blood, some live, some die to keep Old Glory flying high. To honor those who played the part, we give with thanks, the Purple Heart.” — Author unknown.

As time passes and memories wane, the ultimate sacrifice of those who fell in battle, the trauma of those wounded in combat, and the anguish borne by loved ones can fade and be forgotten by a community — if allowed.

When Chapter 776 Military Order of the Purple Heart was formed in 2004, its members proudly named their chapter in honor of the memory of Chief Warrant Officer Aaron A. Weaver — Citrus County’s hometown hero who was killed in action while serving in Iraq — so that his selfless sacrifice would always be remembered.

As Aaron’s sacrifice was sadly followed by the battlefield sacrifices of other fallen heroes with Citrus County roots, the chapter inaugurated an annual Purple Heart ceremony to remember and honor them, as well as paying tribute to the wounded warriors in our community who quietly bear their emotional and physical battle scars each day.

Blessed with the support of the Citrus County community and its leadership, the annual ceremony has grown from a few dozen attendees at the Fallen Heroes Monument to hundreds of attendees at the Citrus County Fairgrounds Auditorium. Particularly gratifying is that students from the Lecanto High School School International Baccalaureate program — our future community and state leaders — have been among the hundreds of attendees.

The celebratory spirit for tomorrow’s ceremony will be created by the stirring patriotic music played by musicians from the popular Nature Coast Community Band, who have graciously volunteered their talents for the ceremony.

The ceremony’s solemnity will be provided by a touching essay titled, “My Identity.” Written and presented by Savannah Weaver, the daughter of fallen hero Aaron Weaver, the essay poignantly captures both the magnitude of sacrifice of those who fell in service to our country and the burden of loss courageously endured by their loved ones.

The supportive attendance of the annual ceremony by the community and its leadership sends a strong message that our community will not allow the legacy of those who gave some and those who gave all in battle to be forgotten as time passes and memories wane.

Our fallen and wounded did their part to keep Old Glory flying high. Tomorrow, our community can do its part by attending this year’s Purple Heart ceremony to honor their battlefield legacy by celebrating their courage and remembering their sacrifices.

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