More than a thousand people packed Calvary Baptist Church in Lakeland on Sunday to honor war veterans, past and present.
- 12th Annual Memorial Day Service honored Korean, Iraq War veterans
- Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd delivered keynote remarks
Calvary Baptist Church in Lakeland's 12th Annual Memorial Day special service paid tribute on this Memorial Day weekend to veterans of the Korean War and the Iraq War.
Keynote speaker Sheriff Grady Judd talked about the importance of the U.S. military protecting religious freedom.
"If we fail to stand up and speak out against atrocities, we, too, can have a barbaric country, and like sheep be led to the slaughter," Judd said.
The service also honored veterans with Florida ties. One of those was Marine Sgt. Lea Mills of Hernando County. Mills was killed on April 28, 2006 while serving in Iraq. He was 21 years old.
Mills' parents said their son died doing what he loved.
"He took another man's place the day he was killed," said Mills' mother, Dee.
"Ten years goes by, but there's not a day that we don't think about him," said Mills' father, Vietnam War veteran Rob Mills.
The service included a final roll call, and a letter Dee Mills wrote about her son, read by Marine Pfc. Aubry Skelton, son of Calvary Baptist's pastor, Shane Skelton.
Dee Mills said the service was bittersweet.
"It's sweet because he so deserves the honor. He gave his all," Dee said.
Mills' parents also expressed hope that Judd's message might serve as a reminder of the purpose of Memorial Day, a holiday designated for honoring those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.
"I think people nowadays have become too complacent on Memorial Day," Rob Mills said. "It's not a day of mattress sales and such. It's a day of remembrance and to look and think about how we got the freedom that we have in this country."