Every September, the Exchange Club of Niceville and the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast sponsor a Field of Valor where flags are put up to honor all servicemen and women from Florida who were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. This year the West Point Society of Northwest Florida sponsored two of the flags and they were dedicated to the memory of CPT Andrew M. Pedersen-Keel ’06 and 1LT Kevin S. Smith, ’02. CPT Pedersen-Keel was killed in Afghanistan on March 11, 2013 while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and 1LT Smith was killed in Baghdad, Iraq on December 8, 2005. It was an honor to remember their sacrifice in support of our country.
Just prior to the Christmas holiday, on December 19, the community held its first-ever “Wreaths Across America” ceremony at the Beal Memorial Cemetery in Fort Walton Beach. There are over 1,700 veterans buried there and each grave was decorated with a wreath. In spite of the pandemic, it was a well-attended event and Society President Chuck Merkel was proud to represent the West Point Society of Northwest Florida, which donated funds toward the purchase of wreaths. Designated attendees unveiled wreaths for each of the military services. Since there was no Merchant Marine representatives present, Chuck Merkel was asked to do the honors for that service and he gladly accepted.