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An Honorary Marine and the Halloween Trail

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For the next four Fridays and Saturdays, 8405 Sunshine Grove Road in Brooksville will be rampant with serial killers, scary clowns, unnerving dolls, witches, pirates and other horrifying creatures, as Marine Corps League 708 hosts its annual Trail of Horror.

But it just won’t be frights to thrill and scare you. Younger children will be able to play in a bounce house and you’ll be able to have your picture taken in front of a friendly scarecrow. If you work up an appetite from walking on the trail you can purchase food and beverages, as well.

You can also buy tickets to win gift baskets or become a member of the Marine Corps League’s “26” Club. By contributing $26 to a pool, you’ll have 26 chances to win (one drawing every other week for a year). Some weeks, the amount you can win will be $50 and some weeks it will be $250. Plus, if you win one time, your name goes back into the drawing and you can win more than once.

The admission fee for the event is only $10 per person. Children five and younger can get in free. So far over the past two weekends, more than 1900 people have attended and the League has taken in close to $10,000. Some of the profits will go to a fund to aid and support veterans, some will go toward scholarships for high school students, while another share of the profits will go toward funding other events.

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It takes months of preparation, hundreds of hours and dozens of volunteers to put on an elaborate event like this that runs for six weeks. Eighty volunteers came from the high schools. These young people did everything from setting up the decorations and acting as ghoulish characters at the various locations along the trail to the thankless job of cleaning up. Twenty members of the Marine Corps League and auxiliary, along with others also helped in the effort.

“We’ve been putting in five hours per day, seven days a week since August getting this ready,” states Jim Bravico, commandant of Marine Corps League 708, the man directing the operation. Jim genuinely enjoys the project and is already making plans for next year’s event. He and his team are cooking up ideas to make it bigger and better.

Marine Corps League 708 is not just about providing a place for its members to hang out and to host events for the community. For example, last month, the members of the local branch got together and helped Ezra Richards, a local boy who is battling cancer. Three-year-old Ezra is the son of Joe & Lauren Richards. One member gave an anonymous donation of $1,000 to go toward his medical expenses. The League, as a whole, gave him toys, clothes, and other items as well. They also got together and held a ceremony making him an honorary Marine.

The ceremony consisted of the trooping of the Colors by the honor guard and playing of the Marine Corps hymn. It featured twenty Marines (ten on each side) followed by the rifle squad. As the parents came down the aisle there was a salute to arms.

At the ceremony, Commandant Jim Bravico commented, “As veterans we all come home and end our fright on the battlefield. Ezra’s battle is every day. He is a messenger sending us the message of hope to all of us; we all have our ups and downs. His message is that life is a gift to cherish.”

The organization has programs that help veterans and active duty military personnel regardless of what branch of the service they served in or are serving in. The league also helps the community at-large. Most people are familiar with their annual Toys for Tots program that takes place during the Christmas season. They also sponsor a Cub Scout pack and collect items for the homeless, among other projects.

The Halloween Trail of Horror is open every Friday and Saturday, 6 pm – 10 pm through October 29. Admission is $10; children five and under are free. The Marine Corps League is located at 8405 Sunshine Grove Road (off Highway 50) in Brooksville. For information call 352-597-7979. You can see pictures of the event on the Marine Corps League 708 Facebook page.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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