Wreaths Across America: Saturday’s event honors those lost, buried at sea
Its theme this year is “Don’t say I should have – Say I did.”
Event organizers hope you do; attend that is.
Wreaths Across America, a national event that honors military personnel lost or buried at sea, will hold a land and gulf ceremony this Saturday, with the land ceremony happening at 9:45 a.m. at Tarpon Point Marina.
The land event is expected to feature solemn tributes to those lost, as well as the artwork of high school students who recently won awards at a local veteran-themed event and the singing talents of local children.
“The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember the fallen, honor those and the families that serve and teach our children the value of freedom,” said Nancy McCarn, co-leader of the event with her husband, Pat. “Teaching our children is very important.”
The Tribute At Sea event is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m., weather permitting, with a rendezvous from the Caloosahatchee River at the Veterans Memorial Bridge. They will meet at Tarpon Point at 9:30.
Meanwhile, the land portion of the program will begin with a wreath escort with the Patriot Guard Riders from Horton Park to the marina.
At 9:45, there will be a “wreath presentation ceremony” at the marina. At 10:30, participants will depart the marina and rendezvous at the Sanibel Bridge at 11.
The seven wreaths are courtesy of Sue Ellen’s Floral, and they will be placed on the dock at the marina.
Guest speakers will include Ltjg. Shawn Antonelli from the Coast Guard in St. Petersburg, who will talk about the 70th anniversary of Normandy and the importance of the Coast Guard in that mission.
The National Anthem will be sung by local recording artist Dallas Bel from Touch A Hero’s Heart, and her girls choir will sing God Bless America. Colors will be presented by the VFW Post 8463 Color Guard, with the Honor Guard of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office giving the 21-gun salute.
Also included will be the Lee County School District 11th- and 12th-graders who recently won the “Pride & Patriotism” event at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, where the theme was “Wreaths Across America.”
The Gulf remembrance service will take place at GPS coordinates (26 degrees 23′ 870″ N 81 degrees 058′ 048″ W), approximately three miles offshore of Fort Myers Beach.
The boats will escort the wreaths down the river. Five Sea Rey amphibious planes will lead them down the river overhead. Once at the location, a Lee County Sheriff’s helicopter will conduct a flyover.
Both events are open to the boating community (RSVP needed) and the general public. The service will be on VHF channels 16 and 72.
Cape Coral was the first designated “floating location” in the United States, with this being the sixth time. It is also the only location nationally out of nearly 1,000 to have land, sea and air components, McCarn said.
“It’s a pretty big honor, and a logistics nightmare. There are so many components to it,” McCarn said. “But for the veterans, it’s worth it.”
Wreaths Across America has special meaning this year, as it is the 150th anniversary of Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery.
The goal is to place a wreath on every veteran’s grave there and also at the other 1,000-plus locations within Wreaths Across America.
The winning students were asked to participate by presenting the wreaths escorted by a veteran during the wreath presentation ceremony at the marina.
For more information, go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org or contact Capt. Pat at firstname.lastname@example.org or 673-8749.