FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – In Fort Lauderdale, on Veterans Day, there was patriotic music, honor guards standing ramrod straight and lots of tears as those who have served to keep America free were honored.
“Thanks to all these men and women, we live in the greatest country on earth,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler told a crowd of hundreds of veterans and civilians who gathered at the veterans memorial on the New River.
Richard Maggiore of American Legion Post 36 symbolically issued a one name roll call.
“Sergeant Jonathon “Doc” Peney,” Maggiore called out.
There was no answer.
Jonathon Peney, a Fort Lauderdale native, gave his life in the war in Afghanistan five years ago.
His widow, Kristin, placed a brick in his memory at the Fort Lauderdale memorial, as his mom held photos of her only son, who chose to be a soldier.
“The recruiter said ‘why do you want to do this, there’s no draft, why do you want to do this?’ and he said ‘I want to serve my country, I want to protect my mom,’” said Peney’s mother, Sue.
They called Jonathan “Doc” because he was a medic. He saved others’ lives through three tours in Afghanistan but lost his own life on a fourth tour.
“He fought hard to go on the deployment he went on, he wasn’t actually supposed to go on that one, but he didn’t want his boys to go without him,” said his wife, Kristin, speaking through tears.
When Peney went on the patrol he wasn’t scheduled to be on, his unit got into a firefight.
His mother described what happened next.
“One of his best friends was bleeding out on a rooftop,” Sue Peney explained.
Her son was killed as he ran through withering gunfire to help his fellow soldier. He gave his life, as he gave so much in life, his wife said.
“If he had something and you needed it more, it was yours,” Kristen Peney said, weeping.
Among those in the large crowd Wednesday was 93-year-old David Brown. He remembered those he fought beside in World War II.
“I had several buddies who didn’t make it back, and they’re going through my mind now. They just didn’t make it back, and I remember them and I love them,” said Brown, his voice choking.
His buddies who fought in Germany were young, just like Jonathan Peney.
“He was probably the most selfless person I’ve ever met,” Peney’s wife said, tearfully. “So I’ve tried to be like him ever since.”
Sgt. Jon Peney did not achieve his dream, which was to earn a medical degree while making the army his career. He received a Silver Star for bravery, posthumously, for his selflessness under fire.
With American flags blowing in a gentle breeze by the river in Fort Lauderdale, vets, their loved ones and grateful citizens paused to honor those who have served and celebrate their bravery. At the same time, they mourned the loss of those who did not return and recognized that, sadly, there has been no war to end all wars.