Before the night sky illuminated with red, white and blue, patriotism was already on full display at 4th on Flagler in downtown West Palm Beach.
The 29th annual celebration included a Military Honor Ceremony prior to the fireworks extravaganza over the Intracoastal Waterway. The special ceremony included a tribute to all branches of the military, a capella performances, the unfurling of a three-story American flag on the side of the Esplanade Grande building and the presentation of the local Hometown Hero award. This year’s Hometown Hero award went to Sophia Eccleston, a U.S. Army veteran who lives in Wellington.
“Our Independence Day celebration has great appeal to our diverse community,” said Mary Pinak, community events manager for the City of West Palm Beach Department of Parks and Recreation. “We have flags, food, fireworks and even human foosball — but we are most proud to say that our celebration truly has meaning. We often hear that the Military Honor Ceremony is what draws many of our guests. We couldn’t be prouder to continue this special component of our programming.”
Eccleston joined the U.S. Army in 1995 and was assigned to the 95th Military Police Battalion in Heidelberg, Germany as a logistics specialist. She was later transferred to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., where she was assigned to the 224th Military Intelligence Battalion. There she served the remainder of her time until she was honorably discharged in 1998.
Today, she is an external affairs manager for Florida Power & Light Company in Palm Beach County. She is responsible for building and managing relationships with local elected officials and key community stakeholders on behalf of FPL. Prior to joining the external affairs department, she worked as a solar developer and advanced three large-scale solar projects located in Desoto, Manatee and Charlotte counties.
“It is an incredible honor to be recognized by my local community — especially on a day that has so much meaning,” Eccleston said. “I am proud to have served in the military and am truly grateful for the acknowledgement.”
In addition to her military service, Eccleston currently serves her local community as a board member for Gulfstream Goodwill Industries, the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County, the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches, the Palm Beach County Homeless Advisory Board, the Florida Women’s Business Center, the Boynton Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce. She is also a trustee member with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce and a member of Impact 100 of Palm Beach County. She is a former board member for the National Society of Arts and Letters Florida East Coast Chapter and the Wounded Veteran Relief Fund.
Eccleston earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Armstrong State University in Georgia and an MBA from American Intercontinental University in Illinois. She is also an alumna of Leadership Palm Beach County. She has a son who is a junior at George Mason University.