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Honoring veterans upon the holidays

By Staff | Dec 9, 2011

Ceremonies in Cape Coral and Fort Myers are planned today to honor veterans during the holidays as part of Wreaths Across America Day.

Dec. 10 marks the 20th anniversary of wreaths being placed on the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, donates them all.

Today, the remembrance wreaths also are donated to national and state veterans cemeteries in all 50 states and to veteran monuments as part of the tradition, and placed on veterans graves at participating cemeteries.

“It’s another way to honor the veterans,” Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Jim Spieth, a retired U.S. Army officer and coordinator behind the local events, said.

“It was another way to recognize veterans during the holiday season,” he added. “Those who have passed on, and those still living.”

At 10 a.m. today, the public is invited to attend a short ceremony at Eco Park. A wreath will be placed at each of the service memorials – five total. The Civil Air Patrol then will move on to the Fort Myers Memorial Gardens.

A Wreaths Across America ceremony will be held at noon. It will include a salute squad from the American Legion Post 232 and “Taps” performed by the Civil Air Patrol. Seven ceremonial wreaths will be placed on memorials.

“Both of them are open to the public,” Spieth said of the ceremonies.

The goal behind Wreaths Across America Day is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach U.S. children the value of freedom.

It is estimated that more than 400,000 wreaths will be placed nationwide, from Maine to Hawaii, and at 24 national cemeteries on foreign soil this year. Spieth said this is the third year for the Cape and Fort Myers ceremonies.

The Cape event is sponsored by the Korean War Veterans Association’s

Florida Gulf Coast Chapter 155. President Bob Hebner called the ceremony important, adding that anything that honors veterans is worth the time.

“It’s an honorarium for our veterans and it’s a remembrance,” he said. “It also is an honorarium to the veterans that are fighting right now.”

Hebner explained that the chapter was approached by the Civil Air Patrol about participating in the event the first year. He said the group used to buy wreaths for the Korean monument at Eco Park, and it takes that further.

“This has wreaths on all of the memorials,” Hebner said, adding that the memorials represent the veterans who have died, as well as those still alive. “This means just so much more.”

According to Spieth, the non-profit organization Wreaths Across America has donated seven wreaths this year for the local ceremonies, in addition to providing the 48 sponsored wreaths. People can sponsor a wreath for $15.

The local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association and the American Legion Post 232 each sponsored 10 wreaths this year for the ceremonies.

Last year, there were 65 sponsored wreaths and, again, seven donated by Wreaths Across America. Spieth said the first year was similar to this year.

The donated and sponsored wreaths are created by the Worcester Wreath Company, which ships the wreaths nationwide using a caravan of trucks. The wreaths for the local ceremonies arrived Monday in the Cape, he explained.

“Our objective in the future is to place a wreath on every veteran’s grave,” Spieth said.

There also will be a Wreaths Across America ceremony out at sea. Called “Operation: Tribute at Sea,” it will take place in the Gulf of Mexico between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. The ceremony honors veterans lost or buried at sea.

A flotilla of boats will start at the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge and proceed down the river. After meeting with other vessels – some carrying disabled veterans and city officials – at the yacht club, they will head for the Gulf.

Once located three miles off shore, wreaths will be placed on the water.

Boaters are invited to join the flotilla out at sea, or those without a boat can watch from the Cape Coral Yacht Club pier, where flags will be handed out.

VHF channels 16 and 72 will be monitored.

For details on the Cape or Fort Myers ceremonies, call Spieth at 848-6341.

For information on Operation: Tribute at Sea, contact Capt. Pat at 673-8749 or at captpat@capecharters.net.

Eco Park is located at the east end of Southeast 23rd Terrace.

Fort Myers Memorial Gardens is at 1589 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers.

The Cape Coral Yacht Club pier is at 5819 Driftwood Parkway.