PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (WMBB) – Fourth of July celebrations in North Port St. Joe emphasized the veterans who fought for our freedom.

Local officials unveiled the North Port St. Joe Veterans Monument, which local veterans are thrilled to see as an addition to the community.

“When I come home and see this monument and know that not only will my neighbors see it, my grandchildren will see it, my nieces and nephews will see it, it’s just a very proud moment for me,” Air Force veteran Senior Master Sergeant Sonja Robinson Maddox said.

The names of 318 veterans are engraved on the monument.

The more than 5,000-pound block of granite took 26 weeks to ship from India.

“The whole community can come and see role models that look just like them. Role models that they know their name. And so I am very proud, emotional, taken aback,” Maddox said.

The monument sits at Zion Fair Baptist Church, which was the site of the funeral of Staff Sergeant Clifford C. Sims in 1968.

Sims posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War, the highest military decoration in the country.

Army veteran Command Sergeant Major Sidney Weatherspoon received a plaque in Sims’ name from the community for his contributions to the nation.

“It’s an honor first of all because we all knew about Clifford Sims growing up, but to receive this high honor in his name, is precious and I’m speechless right now but yeah it’s an honor,” Weatherspoon said.

“This is a very small community but we’ve had a large number of individuals serve in the armed forces and this is an opportunity on this Independence Day for the citizens of this community to say thank you to our veterans who’ve protected the freedom that we all enjoy,” circuit judge and event host Elijah Smiley said.

Port St. Joe will continue its Independence Day celebrations Monday evening with a fireworks show at 10 p.m. EST.