Flagler County celebrated Veterans Day with a ceremony and, for the first time in 60 years, a Veterans Day Parade.
The parade was organized by Bunnell Police Chief David Brannon and stretched from the historic Coquina City Hall building in Bunnell to the Flagler County Government Services Building on State Road 100. U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz was the parade's grand marshal.
The ceremony had William May — a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and the commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86 — as its guest speaker.
During the ceremony, former U.S. Navy Capt. Randall Stapleford was awarded the “Colonel Gary E. DeKay” Veteran of the Year Award.
"I am more than humbled," Stapleford said. "It is more than a reward to help people."
Stapleford served as a naval aviator in the Reserve Officer Training Corps and later, on active duty, as an air anti-submarine pilot. Veteran Services Officer David Lydon said Stapleford earned the “Wings of Gold” medal with 13 years of sea duty, 7,000 flight hours and over 1,000 aircraft carrier arrested landings.
After retiring from the Navy, Stapleford worked for the U.S. Department of State Antiterrorism Assistance Program. Later on, Stapleford joined then-Congressman Ron DeSantis’ staff and now works on Waltz’s staff as a military and veterans affairs outreach coordinator.
Stapleford also serves on the Flagler County Veterans Advisory Council.
Waltz said during the ceremony that America is unique in that it is the only country in the world that will send its own people to fight for other people's freedom.
"My sacred obligation — our sacred obligation — is not only to take care of the men and women that are out there right now," he said, "but to take care of the ones who have served in the past."
Waltz said the nation needs to continue showing support for its veterans and inspiring the county's youth to serve.
"We are coming together much more than the news reports," Waltz said. "But I think we can do better."