GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Armed Forces Retirement Home hosted a moving Memorial Day ceremony Monday. A large group of veterans and their families paid tribute to the men and women who served our country and sacrificed their lives. The event also honored the memory of a man who fought to save two treasured pieces of American history.
Patriotism soared to new heights during a Memorial Day tribute at the retirement home. More than 150 people gathered to remember our fallen heroes and to rededicate two artifacts that are believed to be more than 180 years old.
"One can imagine these eagles stood beside some of the very veterans who fought to establish this nation," said AFRH Administrator Charles Dickerson.
The wooden eagles have a rich and rough history. They once perched at the U.S. Naval Home in Philadelphia. After the facility closed, the eagles were brought to Gulfport in 1976.
The statues were put in storage, then sent to the city dump. Lou Bodisch, a carpenter at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, made it his mission to rescue them.
"My father couldn't stand it. He got off work, went up there, and picked up the pieces," said his son, Mike Bodisch.
Mike Bodisch remembered his father as a frugal man. But when it came to the sculptures, he was willing to spend $850 to have them professionally restored.
"These eagles are a symbol to help us reflect on the past, and of course, it made me think of my father and how much I miss him," said Bodisch.
After Hurricane Katrina struck, several residents at the home pitched-in to restore the eagles once again. They also built monumental columns. Some of the stones have historical dates and words chiseled on them.
"I think the eagle itself represents the United States as a symbol of freedom and the sacrifices that were made by everybody that went to war for it," said Korean War Veteran Jim Brogan. "I feel a renewed sense of patriotism."
"I think they look very good. I still would like to see them back the way they were with the shield and the spears," said Harry Collins, who did the original restoration work on the sculptures.
The Bodisch family wanted to have the rededication ceremony on this day, because Lou Bodisch died six years ago on Memorial Day.
"It makes me proud. I think he would very pleased. He would feel he accomplished his goal in having people think about the past," said Bodisch. "I think it's important for young people to realize that there are many among us who served and dedicated their life to the country and their community and are never recognized."
The eagle statues now stand in the lobby of the retirement home to greet residents and guests as they get off the elevators.