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Events to honor those serving

By Staff | Feb 18, 2009

Two Cape Coral-based events aimed at honoring the men and women who have served, and perished, as members of the U.S. Armed Forces will take place Sunday, an hour apart.
Whether it was World War II, or the current struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the opportunity to acknowledge, appreciate and accept the sacrifices of these soldiers will be available in two separate locations.
For those who have never visited the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., this weekend a replica of the sacred location will be in the Cape.
A “mini-Arlington” has been erected at King’s Way Christian Center to honor the 2,600 soldiers who have fallen in battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the Rev. Dan Lumadue, the “traveling memorial” will be a one-time event at the church. Viewing of the memorial opens today, and there will be a special ceremony at 10 a.m. Sunday.
“We just want to honor those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom,” said Lumadue. “We want to bring healing to family members and friends who might not have had the chance to visit a service or memorial, and we want to say ‘thank you’ to those who served.”
Sixty members of the church’s congregation and members of local veterans groups donated more than 500 man hours to dig the holes and place the crosses for the 30,000-square-foot memorial.
Viewing is open to public from 4-8 p.m. today-Saturday, though Lumadue encourages interested parties to attend the Sunday service. The Sunday event will bring together city and county government officials.
Still, if interested parties cannot make the Sunday service, the memorial will be open for those wishing to stand among the crosses and reflect.
“It’s moving for people to come and stand in the midst of those crosses … Each cross is a story, each one represents something,” Lumadue said.
At 11 a.m., the focus shifts to Eco Park for the 64th anniversary of the landing on Iwo Jima, which occurred Feb 19, 1945.
More than 25,000 Marines fell in the 35-day battle for control of the island. Forty-five of those soldiers and their wives will be in attendance at the Sunday ceremony.
“These guys were either on the beach or flying planes on the ships that were supporting (the troops on the beach),” said Walter Dugen, event emcee and organizer.
Dugen has presided over the ceremony for 13 years. As part of the Pfc. Paul E. Ison Detachment Marine Corps League, Dugen was instrumental in placing the Iwo Jima statue in Eco Park.
He said he plans on being in his dress blues for the event, which will also feature a speaker.
The Iwo Jima statue at Eco Park is one of three replicas of the original that sits in Arlington National Cemetery. The other two reside at Quantico in Virginia, and at Paris Island in South Carolina.
Dugan said the ceremony can often become emotional as the veterans recall the fight for their lives and their country.
“These guys get pretty emotional. They get together with guys they served with 60 years ago,” he said. “They really appreciate getting together.”
While the two events are not connected, the public is invited to attend both.
For more information on the mini-Arlington, contact the church at 458-2700.
For more information on the Iwo Jima event, contact Dugen at 458-1980.