St. Pete honors veterans

The City of St. Petersburg held its annual Veterans Day celebration on Nov. 11 in Williams Park. This year’s honorees included Rear Admiral Sidney Boyd Vaughn, Jr., USCG, Captain Antonio Sanpere, and Ret. U.S. Army Master Sergeant (pictured).

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Mayor Rick Kriseman attended his last city-sponsored Veterans Day celebration as mayor of St. Petersburg on Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Eight years ago, when he and his staff were readying for the first celebration, he hoped this event would continue long after he was gone because “those who served our country in uniform deserve our respect and our recognition.”

The mayor said he was struck not just by the veterans’ selfless service “but by their rich experiences and diversity,” such as 2017 honoree Dr. Carrie W. Nero, Brigadier General, ANC, USAR (Ret), the first African-American nurse to reach the rank of brigadier general in the army reserves and 2015 honored veteran Master Sergeant Willie Rogers, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who served during World War II.

Ret. U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Sidney “Sid” Boyd Vaughn, Jr.

This year, special recognition went to three veterans, including Rear Admiral Sidney Boyd Vaughn, Jr., USCG. Vaughn retired in 1984 after 38 years of service with stations in Alaska, Mississippi, Washington, D.C., and St. Pete. He was awarded The Legion of Merit Medal for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

Vaughn Jr. has roots in St. Pete, graduating from St. Pete High, and just last year, at the age of 92, he completed the Skyway 10K with plans to participate next year at the age of 94.

“Mr. Mayor, it’s great to be honored,” Vaughn said, fighting back the tears, “but it’s even greater to be honored by your own town.”

Ret. U.S. Army Captain Antonio “Tony” Sanpere

Another honoree, Captain Antonio Sanpere, served in the army from 1960-68 in Germany and Vietnam. He earned many awards, including multiple Purple Heart awards, two Bronze Star Medals, a National Defense Service Medal for his Cold War efforts, along with good conduct medals and air medals for his hours in the air.

After retiring, Sanpere earned a degree in engineering and an M.B.A. He became an avid sailor, representing the U.S. in international competition.

Master Sgt. Catherine Washington was among the honorees. She joined the army reserves in 1974, where she served for 30 years. She is a two-time recipient of The Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service and a three-time recipient of the Army Achievement Medal for meritorious performance. In 2008, she received the Legion of Merit award.

After her military career, Washington served as a licensed practical nurse at Bayfront Medical Center and is a 26-year-veteran firefighter emergency medical technician (EMT) with the St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue Department.

Washington was the first woman to join the fire department, and with her daughter following in her footsteps, they became the first and only mother and daughter EMTs in the department.

“I want to honor all the people who have been on my journey, my life journey,” Washington said. “My life journey has been touched by so many people, from my mother to my family to my firefighter family to my church family. I want to thank all of you for coming out and being here to celebrate this award.”

City Council Chair Ed Montanari called veterans the “hidden heroes of our peaceful nation.”

“They are colleagues, friends, neighbors, and family members who answered the call to serve,” he said, “and then returned to live in the country that they defended.”

Montanari, who served in the United States Air Force, related a story of a tragic accident he witnessed of his squadron commander leading a flight of two F-16 jets, getting disoriented in a moonless night and crashing.

“This summer, I went to Arlington National Cemetery with my son,” he said. “Every time I go there, I pay my respects to my squadron commander and my friend.”

Montanari reminded everyone that we need to remember the men and women who did not live to be called veterans.

Dignitaries present included City Council Vice-Chair Gina Driscoll, Mayor-elect Ken Welch, Councilwoman Deborah Figgs-Sanders, County Commissioner Rene Flowers, Pinellas School Board member Caprice Edmond, and State Representative Michelle Rayner, and Congressman Charlie Crist representative Gershom Faulkner.

To reach Frank Drouzas, email fdrouzas@theweeklychallenger.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top