TAMPA (WFLA) – At Veteran’s Memorial Park in Hillsborough County, veterans from the Korean War, the Vietnam war, and those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan gathered to remember all who have served the nation in the military.
USMC Major General James “Hammer” Hartsell gave the keynote address.
“I really believe that out of all of our national holidays, Veteran’s day is the one holiday that pulls American’s together,” said Hartsell who is a decorated combat veteran.
General Hartsell says he visited more than 50 nations during his career and in some of those places the military was hated by the citizens of its nation. He says that’s not the case in the United States.
“Our America loves our veterans. That’s why today is so special to me. It pulls us as a nation together. It pulls us as a nation together, that’s what we need right now,” said Hartsell.
Among the many veterans in the crowd was Vietnam Veteran Gerard Abbett. As a 19-year-old soldier, he was wounded when his unit came under heavy fire along the Mekong river.
“They waited until most of us were asleep and got to the other side of the river and dropped a couple of rifle grenades on us,” said Abbett who earned the purple heart in that battle. “That was an eventful night, one of my friends got killed that evening,” said Abbett.
He was later wounded again during the Tet Offensive, earning a second purple heart.
“I was behind a gravestone and a bullet ricocheted and hit me in the head,” said Abbett.
When he returned to Tampa, Abbett began to help other veterans. He became the post commander of American Legion Post 5 and would eventually be asked to work on a purple heart monument for Veteran’s Memorial Park.
“I wanted to honor my friends that I left. Not for me. It’s to honor all of the million, over a million people that have shed their blood for this country,” said Abbett.
The memorial now stands as one of 14 memorials to those who have served their country during war. Veteran’s Memorial Park is located along U.S. 301 just south of I-4 in Hillsborough County.