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Ceremony at Brandon park to honor Afghanistan deaths

EAST TAMPA – The quarterly Field of Honor Ceremony for service personnel who died in combat in Afghanistan is scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 11 at the Hillsborough County Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. Veterans Museum in Tampa.

“This quarter we will be reading 21 names, at least as of today,” said Walt Raysick, president of the Hillsborough County Veterans Council, the day before New Year's Eve. “Hopefully we'll be bringing all combat troops home soon.”

Each quarter the veterans council pays tribute to “all those Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard service men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice during the previous three months while engaged in this county's War on Terror in Operation Enduring Freedom,” Raysick said. “It's part of the council's commitment to make sure that those who gave the ultimate sacrifice are not forgotten and are remembered by placing a flag in the Field of Honor in their memory.”

A special award will be given to Carlos DeCastillo, vice president of Brighthouse Networks, “a Gold Star father who lost his son a few months back,” Raysick added. “He will be getting an award for being an active Gold Star parent.”

Host for the Jan. 11 event is Rolling Thunder, Florida Chapter 11, and its color guard. Katie and Amber West of Riverview are scheduled to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Larry Westcott, an Air Force retiree and the council's chaplain, is set to give the invocation.

Moreover, Raysick said, “There will be a flyover with the missing man formation by Ye Mystic Air Krewe followed by taps and a rifle salute by the Riverview Detachment of the Marine Corps League.”

The event is open to the public and there is no charge.

The Field of Honor is a field for American flags, each one signifying a life lost in service.

“Adjacent to the field is a bulletin board that displays the count of service personnel killed in action in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn,” Raysick said. Those numbers, respectively, are 2,300, 4,418 and 68, Raysick said Dec. 30.

“Those are cumulative numbers I put up there,” Raysick added. “When I post them it's heart-wrenching and sad because it means one more United States service person has given their life in service to their country.”

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