In the fold

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Wayne Bundy proudly takes the lead in Patriots Pier ceremony

By Jane Bartnett

For Wayne Bundy, the daily flag ceremony at Siesta Key’s Patriots Pier has special significance. Each morning as the sun rises and each evening as the sun begins to set, Bundy prepares to honor those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces.

The son of a Navy veteran and grandson of an Air Force veteran who served in World War II, the daily ritual is his way of recognizing their contributions and that of all members of the military past and present.

On a recent warm summer evening, a red and orange glow created a brilliant backdrop for the white sand and the pier. As Bundy readied the music that filled the air, hundreds of local residents, tourists, and those who have come from near and far to pay tribute to a loved one who served their country, gathered.

After welcoming everyone, Bundy explained the military tradition of lowering the flag at sunset. The crowd quieted as the familiar strains of the national anthem filled the night air. Veterans stood at attention and saluted the American flag that rippled in the cool breeze. Others held their hands over their hearts and gazed at the flag that waved above.

Bundy paused and invited a Marine Corps and an Air Force veteran to join in folding the flag. Drawing on their training, the two began the precise and regimented tradition of folding the American flag 13 times. Within minutes they had formed a perfect triangle.

“The flag is folded to represent the original 13 colonies of the United States,” according to the National Air and Space Museum. “Each fold carries its own meaning … some folds symbolize freedom, life, or pay tribute to mothers, fathers, and those who serve in the armed forces. 

“When the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, representing the soldiers who served under George Washington, the sailors and marines who served under John Paul Jones, and the many who have followed in their footsteps.”

The sunset ceremony concluded when Bundy raised a U.S. Army Special Forces flag that flew overnight.

The local tradition

Bundy’s ties to Patriots Pier began about five years ago when he started assisting former resident Mike Cosentino with the daily tribute. This past April, when Cosentino (who owns the land known as Patriots Point) relocated to the Florida Keys, Bundy assumed the tradition that Cosentino began in 2017.

A native of Juneau, Alaska, Bundy first discovered Siesta Key while on vacation. He made the island his home 10 years ago.

The former Realtor is proud to carry on the Siesta Key tradition. “I keep the focus on the military. We recognize both active duty and retired,” he said.

In the height of the season, Bundy welcomes close to 500 people on the beach for the sunset ceremony that lasts for approximately 15 minutes. During the summer months, he estimates attendance at approximately 150 and 200 people. “It’s always positive,” he said. “People come up and thank me.”

Many of the veterans find it an emotional and uplifting experience. Over time, Bundy has met and talked with veterans of World War II, and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and Afghanistan. “We haven’t had any members of United States Space Force yet, but I know that could change,” he said with a smile.

A number of veteran family members have asked Bundy to fly a flag to pay tribute to their loved one. “We’ve done that and I give them the flag,” he said. “On average, we give away about 20 flags a month.”

Bundy and Cosentino purchase the flags that are flown each day. They welcome donations.

Bundy’s administrative team that includes Zack McNally, Anne Overbeck, Kyna Smith and Rick Chenoweth videotape the events, support a Facebook page, and help him during the ceremonies. The youngest loyal volunteer is Marcello Sciacca, who comes as often as he can. His father and younger brother also join him. “It’s really an awesome thing,” says Marcello’s father Frank.

In keeping with another long-standing military tradition, Bundy has also raised “burial flags.” These American flags either draped the coffin or accompanied the urn of a veteran at his or her funeral or memorial service.

Meanwhile, on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. the Siesta Key Chapel holds a beach service at the same site that is open to all.

The Siesta Key Patriots Pier sunrise and sunset ceremonies are free and open to the public at 10 Beach Rd., Beach Access 2, at the intersection of Beach Road and Avenida Messina. Updates and changes due to weather conditions are reported on the Patriots Pier at Sunset Point Facebook page.

“As long as it’s a Category 3 or under,” Bundy advises, “we’re here.”

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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