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Country’s fallen heroes remembered on Memorial Day; Veterans and citizens pay tribute

By Staff | May 27, 2008

By MATT BLUMENFELD, “mailto:mblumenfeld@breezenewspapers.com”>mblumenfeld@breezenewspapers.com

Hundreds of Cape Coral residents, veterans and civilians alike, gathered at Coral Ridge Cemetery to honor fallen veterans during a Memorial Day ceremony.

“In America, we know that freedom is not free,” state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, told the crowd. “We enjoy a life of liberty because of the courage and valor of our soldiers.

A horse-drawn cassion draped with the American flag led a mock funeral procession as those in attendance stood in somber silence. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8463 presented the colors during the morning ceremony as a 21-gun salute and the playing of “
Taps” further honored the death of those who fought for the country.

This is to honor everyone who has paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Coral Ridge Cemetery general manager Chuck Warren.

Six hundred eighty-four veterans are buried in the Coral Ridge Cemetery, just a fraction of the 1.7 million former servicemembers who live in Florida. The Earth itself seemed to pay tribute to the fallen heroes Monday as a cool breeze swept through the cemetery keeping the edge off of a sunny, warm and picturesque day.

Past post commander Bob Reiser said his group’s Honor Guard performs its task four times a week, every week of the year. In a few brief remarks, he lauded his fellow comrades in arms who have gone before him.

When the call of our country was heard, they answered,” said Reiser.

Aubuchon called America a “
beacon of freedom and hope to struggling nations and people” and called upon Southwest Floridians to participate in the electoral process, utilizing their freedom of speech and pursuing happiness as a way to ensure that military men and women who died for the nation did not do so in vain.

By doing these things we indeed honor those who fought so valiantly,” he added, saying that those who had passed on in service to America have “the thanks of a grateful nation.

Former Army infantryman Tony Mihalovich knows much about not only serving one’s country, but losing comrades in battle. He spent exactly one year in Vietnam, serving a tour from February 1969 to February 1970, and lost his cousin in the war in that same time period.

After completing a course in finance, Mihalovich was originally supposed to be stationed in Germany, but a shortage of manpower in Vietnam led to his being retrained for combat and being stationed in Long Binh.

This is a fine ceremony, a good turnout,” he said Monday. “This is outstanding.

Mihalovich did not flinch when a Huey helicopter flew over the ceremony, drowning out all side conversation. While the chopper did not startle him, Mihalovich said that it did conjure up memories.

Barbershop quartet Sun-Sations lended a patriotic voice to the morning’s event as they sang “
God Bless America” and the national anthem.

A large American flag in the military section of the cemetery was raised to full-staff at the apex of the anthem, before being lowered to half-staff at the close of the song, where it remained for the rest of the day in honor of those who have died after serving the nation.

We thank you for the price that has been paid by so many for our freedom,” said the Rev. Tommy Rickards of Grace Life Church.