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Local Politicians, Families Honor Fallen Vets On Memorial Day

Rhema Thompson

Officials celebrated the son of Broderick Brown and Angela Criswell in a way they will never forget, but it was also an honor they never wanted.  

"Really you don’t want to be here," said Brown, standing beside the Veterans Memorial Wall in Downtown Jacksonville. "You want him to be here."

Twenty-two-year-old DeAngelo Brown of United States Army was one of four fallen servicemen added to the wall Monday morning.

Brown died last August, after being shot at a Colorado Springs bar. 

"As mother and father, you prepare yourself once they sign that dotted line that something could happen, whether it's here or across seas," Broderick Brown said. "We knew the possible outcomes of serving in the military."

Brown along with three other young men -- Dustin Curtiss,  Johnny Oliver, and Kejuan Haywood--were honored at Monday’s Memorial Day service.

"For serving his country and doing what he did, this is the best honor you can give a fallen soldier, period," Brown, his father, said. "This is the best honor you could give him. They didn't have to do it, but they did."

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Mayor Alvin Brown and other dignitaries across the state gathered at the wall to pay respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"This wall symbolizes the long, long list of Floridians that have died in the service of our country," Nelson said.

More than 1,700 names line the wall. In front of it an eternal flame burns.

Credit Rhema Thompson
Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial Wall in Downtown Jacksonville.

It was near the flame that family members of the four young servicemen paid tearful tribute before hundreds of veterans and their families.

Jazmin Oliver’s husband died in Bahrain last May. He was 23 years old.

 "When Johnny died , the nation lost the greatest man," she said as tears streamed her face. "But in my heart, I know he is among the best."

Each man was honored with a wreath-laying presentation by their respective branch of service. Hymns, poems and prayers were sent up to the young men--all under the age of 30-- and the hundreds of other local servicemen who died in years past.

"It takes something like this to happen to your family, for you to have respect for the men and women that are on that wall," Broderick Brown told those in attendance. "But coming down today is an eye-opener all across this country. Our kids are out there laying their lives on the line for us so we can enjoy the freedom that we have."

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.