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Veterans, Military Pay Final Tribute to Congressman Bill Young

He served more than half-century in public office including 43 years in Congress and chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee. So, it’s difficult to measure the scope of Congressman Bill Young contributions to the Bay Area, Florida and the nation.

Young was laid to rest Thursday at Bay Pines National Cemetery – a place he visited often especially for the Veterans Day ceremony.

Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
The Marine Honor Guard approaches to carry Cong. Bill Young's casket into the memorial service Thursday.

On the stage at his funeral service at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, a smiling portrait of Bill Young looked out on the audience of more than 1,000 people. One could almost detect a twinkle in his eye as he was remembered for creating the national bone marrow registry and for his unwavering support for biomedical research.

Yet what was mentioned the most was his dedication and personal support of members of the military – especially the wounded and their families.

“It’s a strange thing to owe your life to somebody,” said Marine Cpl. Josh Callihan. Listed as a member of the Young family, Callihan credited the congressman and his wife Beverly for his recovery from a spinal injury.

Callihan was one of countless wounded troops visited by the Youngs at Walter Reed and other medical centers in the Tampa Bay region and around the world.

“I know that Bill would want me to say to the military that he loves so much, God Bless to all those who serve especially the wounded and their families and the fallen and all who stand the watch of the day,” said former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England.

He then read from a condolence letter sent by former President George W. Bush to Young’s widow that noted the congressman’s devotion to veterans and the military.

One need look no further than MacDill Air Force Base and the joint commands, U,S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, to measure his influence said State Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater.

Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
State Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater wore Cong. Bill Young's campaign pin from his 2012 election as a tribute.

“Bill Young with what he has done with MacDill Air Force Base to keep that open, putting the world center of national defense. He is clearly that person that we owe that gratitude to,” Hooper said.

There are countless veterans who can personally thank Young and his congressional staff for helping with paperwork snafus at the VA. Vietnam veteran Randall McNabb, a local leader of the Patriot Guard Riders, said Young helped him back in 1977 with a GI Bill snafu.

McNabb worries that Young’s replacement will not have the same enthusiastic support for veterans.

“They don’t have the same knowledge,” McNabb said. “They don’t understand a lot of the issues especially of those who have been to war.”

Young served nine years in the Army National Guard and six more years in the Reserves. Yet at his funeral, members of the Marine Corps are the ones who carried his casket and formed the honor guard.

And Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos made Young an honorary U.S. Marine delivering the news to his widow, Beverly Young, an hour before the funeral service.

“While he was physically absent during my remarks with Beverly and their family he was most assuredly there in spirit,” Amos told the audience. “To the men and women who wear my cloth, this is the absolute very highest honor that we could have bestowed upon this valiant warrior. While his heart was always with his Marines, he is now officially one of us.”

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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