Surrounded by darkness, wind and rain, hundreds gather to pay tribute and remember.
“We’re united tonight. Unified in our support to the families, friends and loved ones of those 11 brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice,” says county commissioner Rob Williamson.
The memorial on the shore of Santa Rosa Sound. So close to where the Blackhawk helicopter went down killing all eleven servicemen onboard. Family members representing all eleven have come from all over the country to be here.
“It’s been an emotional day for them,” says Adam Teichner who helped organize the ceremony. “I’ve seen a lot of range of emotions today from happy joy to crying, which is what we expect. But, they’ve been able to express that and have some closure.”
The service complete with military pomp and circumstance. A way for the community to acknowledge the sacrifice and something else according to Teichner, “remember this as a good place, not as a tragic place.”
Loli Suarez needed to be here. “Both of my sons are military,” she says. Her eyes fill with tears as she thinks of what the families are dealing with. “It’s very emotional,” she says, “I could not imagine.”
At the end of the ceremony, each name called from the podium, a final role call. A folded American flag given to each family who are now united in their grief and healing with a town who simply wanted to say thank you.
A permanent memorial to the Blackhawk 11 is being constructed in Navarre Park.