PALM COAST, Fla. (May 27, 2024) – Preparing to welcome residents to Heroes Park on Monday, Palm Coast Parks and Trails Supervisor Michael Kanter and his team wanted to make sure that the city park and memorial represented the respect the location deserved. He stood by proudly as residents walked through the area after a moving Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, reminiscing, speaking in loving tones, or just spending moments reflecting.

Among those in the park was Gold Star mother Cathy Heighter. After participating in the annual ceremony that recognizes the life and sacrifice of her son, she was pleased to meet the person behind thoughtful attention to the memorial park.

Michael Kanter, Cathy Heighter – Flagler News Weekly

It’s all in a day’s work, serving the residents of Palm Coast according to Kanter.

“We had stripped out probably 80 yards of mulch that had been piling up, we got rid of the mulch and old Zoysia grass that was here that was no good. We resodded everything. We opened it up, redid all the irrigation here. Me and my guys put a lot of time into it. We were out here for about two weeks,” said Kanter.

“We do have priority parks. This is one of my top priorities personally, to make sure this place looks great. There’s some people that want it to be secluded, and then we have some people that want it to look fresh. I kind of did a combination of both, so I can make both sides happy.”

“The City’s team did a fantastic job putting on a very touching and meaningful event for the community that focused on the true reason for Memorial Day. I was so pleased to see the positive response to the first-ever Honor Walk, which showcased this beautiful and touching park. And I have to say, the top-notch sprucing up of this park did not go unnoticed,” added Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin.

Residents enjoy Heroes Memorial Park in Palm Coast.

Not the only one on the receiving end of the city’s caring employees this Memorial Day weekend, the Stanfords, a beloved Gold Star family in the community, shared their experience with city staff on Saturday in recognition of their son, Army Sergeant Luke Stanford.

The Palm Coast Fire Department has created a signature initiative to recognize residents whose family member has been lost in the line of duty, and on Saturday they unveiled this year’s truck and honoree.

Tim Stanford Lt. Patrick Juliano – Flagler News Weekly

“The Fire Department plans each Memorial Day to dedicate a fire apparatus to a Gold Star Recipient whose name is inscribed in the Veterans Memorial at Heroes Memorial Park.  In 2021, Ladder 25 was dedicated to the memory of Marine Sergeant Zachary J Walters; in 2022, Engine 21 was dedicated to the memory of Marine Lance Corporal John T. Schmidt III and in 2023, Engine 24 was dedicated to the memory of Army Corporal Raheen Tyson Heighter,” said Palm Coast Fire Department Lt. Patrick Juliano.

Tim Stanford shares his gratitude at the Gold Star Dedication. Photo: Carmen Stanford.

The Stanfords were profoundly impacted by the loss of their son in 2008. The intimacy and kindness shown them during the Gold Star Dedication over the Memorial Day weekend has been incredibly meaningful.

“The fire department truly kept it a memorial for fallen soldiers,” said Tim Stanford.

“They’ve just been so real about it that it’s the most memorable, kindest act that anybody’s ever done for us. He’s with them. He’s riding along with true heroes. As I was telling Chris, he’s riding along with men who are going into danger to save people. When he was with the 9-11, that was his job, his job was a first response to situations like 9/11. To run in and help get people out. He couldn’t be with a greater group of heroes. The fire department is the greatest group of heroes.”

“The focus is on the fallen soldier and the families,” shared Carmen. “It truly is on the fallen soldier and I don’t think anyone else has truly managed to capture that.”

Tim Stanford pays tribute to his son Luke Stanford during the Memorial Day ceremony in Palm Coast. Flagler News Weekly