By Mayor Curtis Ford for Atlantic Beach Living magazine (April 2023)
While it’s hard to pinpoint what I cherish most about serving as your mayor, I don’t think anything rivals the honor it is to represent our City as we recognize and celebrate the contributions and sacrifices of U.S. military personnel. Is there anything nobler and brave than defending the United States of America to keep us safe and to keep us free? These men and women have answered the call to leave their families and put their futures and even their lives on the line to valiantly defend our nation and its inalienable rights.
The City’s latest measures to pay tribute to American heroes from Atlantic Beach include my proclamation honoring Atlantic Beach’s Craig L. Dunning, whose acts of bravery in the Vietnam War earned him Purple Heart medals for being wounded as a result of an act of an opposing armed force; Silver Star medals for gallantry in action; and Bronze Star medals for heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone.
Craig’s tragic-yet-inspiring life story is riveting and is sure to tug at your heart; I encourage all Atlantic Beach residents to learn all about him at www.coab.us/craigdunning.
More recently, the City Commission adopted a resolution authorizing the placement of street signs honoring two brothers from Atlantic Beach – Rexwood S. Thames Jr. and James F. Thames -- who heroically served the nation during the Vietnam War. Rexwood flew more than 125 successful combat missions and was killed shortly after returning home from his initial tour in Vietnam; and James, a highly decorated Navy Seal, was killed in action during a combat mission against enemy forces. It was heartening beyond words to see many of the Thames’ family members and friends encourage and thank the City Commission for honoring these two heroes. Learn more at www.coab.us/SignsOfHonor.
The community also has a new monument at Beaches Veterans Memorial Park honoring the men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine and Navy Armed Guards. Check out www.coab.us/MerchantMarine. The new monument joins other memorials in place at the park, including one with chaplains’ names in pavers from various conflicts, and bricks commemorating the 37 crew members lost on the USS Stark.
Upcoming on the City’s military-appreciation docket is the community’s Memorial Day ceremony at 9 a.m. Monday, May 29, at Beaches Veterans Memorial Park. This is a somber-yet-important annual red-white-and-blue event; I encourage each of you to attend it and the annual Veteran’s Day ceremony at the park.
Do you have any suggestions on additional ways to memorialize and honor American heroes from Atlantic Beach? I’d love to hear from you.
Mayor Ford can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.