Honoring Veterans in Zephyrhills

Zephyrhills’ annual Veteran’s Day parade took place this Saturday. Roughly two hundred people showed up to support the veterans and show their appreciation.

After the National Anthem was sung and the Pledge of Allegiance was said, the parade participants began making their way down Fifth Avenue.

Various groups of veterans headed down the street one car or trailer at a time. They were followed by Zephyrhills High School ROTC and JROTC members, Helen’s Baton and Dance Studio dancers, several leagues of Boy Scouts and a few other veteran-supporting groups.

Also in the mix of veterans were the animals who served the country. These included dogs and horses.

Main Street Zephyrhills hosts this event every year. A member of the board of Main Street Zephyrhills, Jody Wilkeson, commented on the history of the parade.

“The Veteran’s Day parade has been going on for over ten years here in downtown,” Wilkeson said. “On and off, probably for twenty years since Main Street was first formed.”

The announcer of the parade, Greg First, was honored to recognize veterans again this year, as he has been announcing the parade for years. He too is a veteran.

“I was in during Vietnam, 1968 to 1972,” First said. “The war that no one really liked back then but I was happy to serve. I’d do it again.”

The parade reminds us to show gratitude to our veterans and remember all those who served.

 

Tampa veterans get a new beginning

New Beginnings of Tampa strives to be a light in the community. With their ability to feed and house the homeless, they also provide a program for a community that is often overlooked: veterans.

“We have about a total of 200 in the program now, and about 50 of them are vets. Most of the vets come as a referral from Veterans Affairs, or sometimes they just come right off the street,” says founder, Tom Atchison, “The most important thing is, is they have a clean environment, a safe environment to stay, a good three meals a day and snacks, it’s very important for their well being.”

New Beginnings is willing to whatever it takes to keep veterans off the street.

“I came down and they had a bed for me and that was a week ago today,” said veteran Kenney Farley.

New Beginnings doesn’t just provide housing for their veterans, they prepare them to get back into the real world.

“Right now we’re running very close to 100 percent as far as getting jobs. There’s plenty of jobs out there for those that will be responsible, show up on time to work and so sometimes that takes a little life training skills on how to hold a job,” Atchison said.

New Beginnings wants their veterans to feel at home, but also assigns them duties to make sure their quarters are clean and tidy to help create good habits and responsibility.

“I seem to get along with everybody, they’re pretty friendly, you know. I’m happy,” said Farley.

So it seems to be a happy ending for everybody at New Beginnings.

Even veteran, Leif Dereng is ecstatic about earning his new housing voucher. He explained how happy he was and laughed saying, “no more woods.”

Many of the veterans stay at New Beginnings between four to six months, where they work to get back on their feet and out into the workforce again.