Celebrated on May 30 of every year, Memorial Day serves as a day of remembrance for those who have fallen in service of our country. Originally termed ‘Decoration Day,’ the national holiday was created days after the Civil War ended to honor those who died during the war, encouraging the decoration of their gravestones with flowers. Now, known to all as Memorial Day, this day honors all those who have fallen in service, providing a designated time for us to remember and be grateful for the sacrifices that were made. However, there are many who try to keep the memories of the fallen alive in their hearts every day.
Steve Bayer, a resident of Abbey Delray, served in the U.S. Air Force as an aeromedical evacuation pilot, transporting wounded or ill soldiers. He also spent more than 20 years as a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, taking pride in the impact he made with the organization.
“I was helping people at their worst and darkest times,” Steve says. “There’s nothing more special than that.”
Upon moving to Abbey Delray two years ago, Steve was overjoyed to find a diverse set of veterans within the community and enjoyed listening to the stories they were willing to share.
“I was very excited to hear the different stories, the different experiences, and have the opportunity to share some of my own stories in turn,” Steve says. “I think there is something to be learned from the stories veterans have to tell.”
Inspired, Steve, with the help of Abbey Delray’s administration and community volunteers, spearheaded an initiative to build a wall of honor to recognize his fellow neighbors and their loved ones who had served, as well as veteran spouses of residents who have passed.
Over the course of eight months, Steve and his team met with each veteran at Abbey Delray, asking for a photo to display on the wall. If the veteran didn’t have any photos from their time in service, Steve and his team were more than happy to take a current picture to ensure they had something to display. Expected to be a small project at first, Steve was pleasantly surprised when Abbey Delray’s Wall of Honor rapidly grew in size, almost doubling within a few months.
“When I first started the wall, I was expecting to have around 35 photos to display, but by the time the wall was unveiled, I had 55. Now, we have almost 70 photos on the wall,” says Steve.
Along with the photo monument, residents and visitors can also read the stories of each veteran on a rotating display nearby. From battling in Iwo Jima, to surviving the Battle of the Bulge, to serving as a submarine commander, the veterans of Abbey Delray have amazing stories to share, and Steve is determined to have his fellow veterans’ experiences remembered and honored. According to Steve, it has been an act of love.
When asked about the importance of Memorial Day and taking a day to remember all of those who have died in service to our country, Steve says the holiday always evokes mixed emotions.
“Memorial Day, for me, is bittersweet. There are many who haven’t come back home, and we think about them often, but they are true heroes, and everyone is grateful for their sacrifice,” says Steve.
As for Abbey Delray’s Wall of Honor, Steve has no plans of stopping. He intends to maintain the wall for as long as he remains at the community. There are future plans in place to extend the wall, ensuring that there will always be room for the future veterans of Abbey Delray.
“Those who’ve served our country deserve to be honored, and with this wall, the veterans at Abbey Delray will always be remembered. I’ll make sure of it,” assures Steve.