By NewsLine Staff

The first celebration using the term Veterans Day occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947. Raymond Weeks, a WWII veteran, organized the “National Veterans’ Day,” which included a parade and other festivities, to honor all veterans. The event was held on Nov. 11, then designated Armistice Day. 

This year, the Fallen Heroes Military Tribute will be held on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. at Faith Community Church, 3450 County Road 210W in St. Johns. A program will be presented featuring an Honor Guard, an invocation, the reading and ringing of the bell for each fallen Florida hero, special musical presentations, and featured guest speakers Capt. Larry Jackson, US Air Force (ret) representing Tunnel to Towers and CJ Smith, Senior Chief Petty Officer US Navy (ret) representing Canine Companions for Independence. Jim Steele, bugler from Bugles Across America, will reprise his tribute from previous years. Refreshments will be served following the ceremony.

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The Memorial Field of Crosses honors Florida-born military service men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There are 351 four-foot crosses that bear the names, pictures, rank, branch of service, age, and date of death of those who perished. The eight larger crosses represent all others who died in WWI, WWII, Vietnam Conflict, Korea, the Beirut Peace Mission, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A special tribute was added in 2022 to honor the “Forgotten 13” brave Marines, Navy Corpsman, and Soldier who were killed in the terrorist attack while helping support the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan in August of 2021. 

“The community is encouraged to attend and make this tribute a family event to share the true meaning of Veterans Day and reflect upon those brave young men and women who sacrificed all so that we could enjoy the freedoms we have today,” said Bruce Van Dam. “Let our children know that Freedom isn’t free. These veterans were someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, and father or mother. Share a moment of reflection before one of these white crosses so that the veteran’s memory continues to live on and is not forgotten. They represent some of the best of their generation, many only in their early twenties. Say a silent prayer for the fallen as the soft gentle notes of the bugler’s ‘Taps’ echoes across the field.”

This tribute has been displayed in nine churches in the area since its inception in 2015. Due to the pandemic, there was a two-year hiatus from 2020 – 2021. With the assistance of local Boy Scouts of America Troops 718 and 474, the “Field of Crosses” tribute has returned to St Johns. The memorial was a vision of Helping Hands of St. Johns to honor local men and women who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms and liberties.

The Memorial Field of Crosses is free to the public and will be open daily from dawn to dusk for viewing beginning Nov. 5. Visitors are asked to be respectful and pay homage to these exceptional men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

If any community member would like to contribute or provide assistance in placing crosses or the American Flags for each cross, contact Bruce Van Dam at 

Photo courtesy Jackie Valyou 

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