Valencia host “Remembering Our Fallen” traveling photo memorial to honor fallen Florida soldiers

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Photos from the traveling photo memorial stop "Remembering Our Fallen" exhibit at Valencia College (Ty Wright / Valencia Voice)

As a father, Kenneth Conde Sr. still can not come to grips that his son died in action, but as a veteran himself, he understands that these kind of things are likely to happen.

“I never thought it would be my son; I thought it would be me,” said Conde Sr., who served in the Marine Corps for 17 years. “I am a retired Marine so it sucks being on the other side. However, I see it through different eyes. When we put our hands up, we are stating that we are willing to give up our lives for the defense of our country.

Conde Sr.’s son, Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr., of Orlando, died in 2004 while fighting in Anbar province, Iraq. He had served five-years in the armed forces prior to his death; on the Delayed Entry Program throughout his senior year, until finally enlisting in May 1999.

The younger Conde is one of more than 300 Florida service members who died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is being honored in part of the  “Remembering our Fallen” traveling photo memorial.

The memorial wall will be on display at West Campus, in the atrium of Building 11, through Friday, Nov. 14.

The memorial debuted at Valencia Monday afternoon, and drew in more than 100 people for the opening ceremony, not including the wandering bystanders who stopped and viewed on their break in between class.

At the ceremony Brig. Gen. Francisco Espaillat, commanding general of the 143rd Sustainment Command, an Army Reserve Command based in Orlando, presented the Gold Star lapel pin to Wrenita Codrington in honor of her deceased son Sgt. Cory Clark, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007. The Gold Star is given to the family members of Army veterans who die in the line of duty.

For family members, the exhibit does not only give them the opportunity to reminisce of their family’s history, but it also gives them a chance to witness how appreciative the world is of their family service.

”It’s in honor. I’m grateful that people are taking the times out of their lives to honor all the fallen. For many years they were not honored the way they should’ve been. I’m glad today, in this day in age, that they are taking the time to do things like this,” said Conde Sr.

Some key figures in attendance at the ceremony included Dr. Sandy Shugurat, president of Valencia College; Dr. Felecia Williams, president of Valencia’s West Campus; and Jerry Demings, sheriff of Orange County Florida.