The annual Veterans Day Ceremony has been an important tradition in Freeport for nearly a decade, but this year's event had special meaning.
On Monday, the Freeport Veteran's Memorial Committee unveiled the new $40,000 Walk of War bronze memorial, another testament of the town's respect to the men and women of the armed forced who have served our country in battle.
The event was the city's ninth annual Veteran's Day Ceremony and featured the Freeport High School Chorus, Freeport Elementary Sophisticats, Walton High School Air Force Jr. ROTC, Walton County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard and guest speaker Army Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Stipp, who was wounded in action.
"I think they're going to be blown away," said Tim Ard, the Freeport Veteran's Memorial Committee's chairman and founder, before the statue was revealed. "This community is so behind this project. ... For a community the size of Freeport to have something like this as a tribute to our military is unbelievable. When we finish this site in 2020, we will have raised probably a quarter of a million dollars."
He added that the artist's rendition was different than the design they went with, but he was very pleased with how it turned out and excited to share it with the community.
Among guests at City Hall was Trudy Boudreaux, whose late husband Bob was a member of the original Blue Angels flight team.
She was key in galvanizing the memorial committee's efforts.
"I think Freeport was due a monument," Boudreaux said. "The people contributed to it and it belongs to everybody."
Of those that contributed to the statue, Joel Glenn, owner of Clary-Glenn Funeral Home & Crematory, joined the masses and said he was impressed with quality of Walk of War.
"Words can't describe the amazement of the memorial and what it means to our community, to represent veterans and combat veterans specifically," Glenn said.
During the ceremony that hundreds of people attended, Stipp shared personal insight on being wounded in combat.
He addressed the high rates of veteran suicide and the unseen fight that theses heroes are still fighting.
"Just like in any battle, if you fight alone, your enemy will eventually overrun you," he said.
Stipp added that the Walk of War was special because it's tangible proof of the community's gratitude.
"I think that these types of memorials are awesome because words can be easily mistaken just for words, but actions speak much louder," he said.