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NFMAA honors veterans at annual breakfast

November 14, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The placemats and greeting cards on the table expressed appreciation for what local military personnel did to help keep our country safe and free, as did the music and accolades they received from everyone around them

The North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts made sure veterans and their families got the royal treatment Thursday as it held the third-annual veterans breakfast, where students and veterans in their family got to eat together and show thanks for their service.

Dr. Thomas Millins, NFMAA principal, started the event as a way to honor those who served.

Article Photos

Air Force Airman 1st Class Mitchell Palmer speaks from Germany via Skype at the third-annual Veterans Day breakfast at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts on Thursday. Palmer is stepbrother of assistant principal Joy Marks.


"My father served in the Army and my father-in-law served in the Marines, so I always had the understanding of what Veterans Day meant," Millins said. "When I became principal, I felt this would be a new tradition at the school and it's something I cherish."

The event featured song from the school chorus, the playing of the songs of each of the five branches of the military, the playing of Taps, and the North Fort Myers High School Color Guard.

Placemats and greeting cards made by students greeted the veterans as they sat down with their children, grandkids, nieces and nephews.

Also, for the first time, active service members spoke to those in attendance via Skype: Marine Cpl. Ronnie Morris in San Diego, and Air Force Airman First Class Mitchell Palmer, stepbrother of assistant principal Joy Marks, who came in from Germany.

"It's an honor to be noticed for serving my country and for me to speak in front of you," Morris said. "Being in the military is the most challenging part of your life, but also the best time of your life."

There were also a handful of active military. Vivian Gomez, of Cape Coral and the Army National Guard, said she was moved by how the school honored them.

"It's nice to see how they honor and respect the veterans. Being a mom of kids who go here, it means a lot to me," Gomez said.

Her daughter, Genesis, felt it was only right to honor veterans and her mom.

"I think my mom is really cool and does great at her job. It's great to honor them because they have been through a lot that we don't have to because of them," Genesis said.

Carlos Velazquez was invited by William and Melanie Burks, who have been like his nephew and niece.

"It's amazing. It touches my heart to see these kids realize what Veterans Day is all about. Seeing this and their support is really one of the things I enjoy," Velazquez said. "I'm very proud to be an American."

E.J. Fields and Mike Conde, Air Force veterans, were equally moved even as it was their third time attending. Fields was particularly touched by the playing of Taps, as he lost family and friends in war.

"I tear up easily. I was a squad leader for 13 years and buried a lot of soldiers. I still tear up when I hear it to this day," Fields said. "I was also happy that when the national anthem played, nobody kneeled."

"This event gets better every year. They really take the time to honor us," said Conde, whose wife teaches at NFMAA. "Being a veteran is about pride in your country, respect for others and a desire to do the right thing."



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