DESTIN — Members of the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), city of Destin staff and former Councilman Parker Destin paid tribute to Sgt. 1st Class Thomas "Rusty" Robinett at the dedication of a memorial plaque at Joe's Bayou Recreation Area on Nov. 19.
Robinett, a Green Beret who served honorably for 11 years and was a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lost his life in a Choctawhatchee Bay boating accident on April 14, 2019.
From the archives: 4 names added to 7th Group's Memorial Wall
The original story: Missing boater ID'd; FWC continues search
A crowd that included friends, community members and a host of 7th Group soldiers came out to pay their respects at a memorial plaque installed using community donations.
"It's always important to do things like this to remember those who have fallen," Master Sgt. James E. Gallup said at the event. "They are not just our teammates, they're our friends. They're our family. They're our brothers and sisters. They're our husbands."
Gallup told the crowd the 7th Group memorializes all of its fallen and keeps pictures of them in its hallways and facilities.
"It's a tremendous honor, but I always felt like there needed to be something where everybody can know what a great special person that he was," Gallup said. "Because we're not just soldiers, we are also members of this community."
Gallup said he went to the Destin City Council for their support in honoring Robinett and they agreed without hesitation. Parks & Recreation Director Lisa Firth helped lead the effort from the city end, and Gallup organized a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the plaque.
"I figured I'd have the money within maybe about two weeks," Gallup said. "I needed about $1,800 total. I had the money in an hour."
Parker Destin was another key figure in helping the project come together. Speaking at the dedication ceremony he expressed that it was the natural thing for a member of this community to get behind this type of project.
"For all the things Destin is, our backbone is a military community," Destin said. "When we lose one of our own, we are duty-bound to honor and to remember them."
Destin said he hoped the memorial plaque could provide a measure of peace and hope to Robinett's family and for every other family that serves our country.
"It's without doubt that you serve others, you serve our nation and provide the blanket of security that gives all of us the opportunity to live a peaceful, prosperous lives," Destin told the assembled 7th Group members. "When we lose one of you, regardless of circumstance, we mourn that loss."
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: 7th Special Forces Group soldier honored with plaque at Joe's Bayou