With a large contingency of active and retired military in the panhandle, Memorial Day holds extra special meaning for many. An annual tradition in Bay County has become one of the largest honoring those who have lost their lives in the armed forces.
The 21 gun salute and taps are a sight and sound too familiar for many in the stands at Kent Forest Lawn Cemetary on this memorial day. Deborah Tainsh lost her son, Patrick, nearly ten years ago in Iraq and remembers the day she was told he wouldn't be coming home.
"It is a moment that is hard to explain except it's as though the sun went down and you didn't think it would come and rise again, but here i am ten years and it does rise," said Tainsh.
Tainsh received a gold star which represents a family member who died or was killed while serving in the armed forces.
"It's an immediate connection as today coming here. I met a dad whose son was killed in panama and another spouse who's husband died from his wounds during world war II," said Tainsh.
During Monday's ceremony, Colonel David Graff of Tyndall Air Force Base was the guest speaker.
"This is an opportunity to see the families and the sacrifices in their eyes and how much freedom actually does cost and how much it is worth it," said Col. Graff.
A worth that can be seen with the presentation of colors and the laying of the wreath.
"I can come without shedding all the tears but with a deep felt honor in my heart and memory, not only for our son, but for everyone who has sacrificed for this country," said Tainsh.
Words that ring true for many on this day.
After her son's death, Tainsh began a non-profit organization that offers grief counseling for families that have lost loved ones in the armed forces.