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Memorial Day ceremonies set

By Staff | May 24, 2013

Memorial Day services are planned Monday for the public in Cape Coral and Fort Myers.

The Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery and Fort Myers Memorial Gardens Cemetery and Funeral Home host annual events to commemorate the holiday and remember the military men and women who have given their lives in service. Each ceremony will conclude with a free barbecue.

The Annual Memorial Day Remembrance at Coral Ridge will take place from 9 to 11 a.m., with the service beginning at 10 a.m. The event at Fort Myers Memorial Gardens will kick off at 9:30 a.m.

“We have a big staff of veterans here, and we’re pro-military,” Jorge Bracero, a funeral director for Coral Ridge, said. “It’s our way of remembering our fallen brothers and sisters, and a way to thank all of our current veterans for their service.”

The Rev. Tommy Rickards, of Grace Life Church, will serve as chaplain, and Cape Mayor John Sullivan will lead the crowd in the pledge of allegiance. Guest speakers are U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Vincent A. Cummings and Ralph Santillo, president of Invest In America’s Veterans Foundation.

“There’ll be a reading of the veterans who have passed away this last year who we have cared for,” he said, adding that the names of the veterans have been etched into an “Honor Wall” on the grounds.

Attendees will have an opportunity to take a rubbing of their loved one’s name on the wall.

The Harney Point VFW 8463 and American Legion Post 90 will participate in the ceremony, which includes a 21-gun salute, 21 white dove release and ceremonial flyover by a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter.

“We have a flyover with a Vietnam-era Bell,” Bracero said.

Girl Scout Troop 347 will pass out American flags to attendees.

“We’ll be having some burgers, hotdogs and refreshment at the conclusion,” he said. “It’s a way to thank everyone for coming, and it allows people to gather and socialize and meet other fellow service members.”

Last year, an estimated 300 people attended the event.

“It’s a great opportunity to remember our fallen. It’s also a great opportunity to meet a veteran – to thank them for their service,” Bracero said. “This is their day – they need to be recognized.”

He added that the event is a great experience for children.

“To see the sacrifices that people have made for them and for all of us,” he said.

The ceremony in Fort Myers also will feature a helicopter flyover.

“A Huey helicopter kicks it off,” Donnell Sullivan, general manager for the Fort Myers Memorial Gardens Cemetery and Funeral Home, said.

Like the one in the Cape, the cemetery features a veterans section.

“We feel strongly about supporting our veterans,” he said, adding that is also why they organize the holiday service. “That’s the day we actually honor those who have died supporting our country.”

The graves are decorated prior to the event, and at least a dozen groups will take part.

“They’ve been doing it for many many years,” Sullivan said of the ceremony.

The national chaplain of the Sons of the American Revolution will officiate the service. The special guest speaker will be U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, who represents District 19 in Florida, and others.

“All the other ones are veterans,” he said. “Some great speakers, some great insights.”

The service will last for about 30 minutes.

The buffet-style lunch will be held afterward in the Colonial Family Center.

“It is open to the public, and we encourage parents to bring their children,” Sullivan said.

“We just put that on as a thank you for their support,” he added.

An estimated 500 people attended last year’s ceremony.

“It’s just really an emphasis on patriotism,” Sullivan said of the event. “To really have a day to reflect on the cost of our freedom – not only are they going to be in amongst veterans, but they’re going to be among survivors, too.”

Fort Myers Memorial Gardens is also sponsoring a Memorial Day photo contest. All submitted photographs must be taken on the grounds of the cemetery between Saturday and Monday.

Prizes will be award for first, second and third place. Visit the Web site for details.

The Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery is at 1630 S.W. Pine Island Road.

For more information, call (239) 283-0540 or visit: www.CoralRidgeFuneralHome.com

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

For more information, call (877) 936-0555 or visit: www.fortmyersmemorial.com