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Fallen heroes honored at Coral Ridge

By Staff | May 26, 2015

“To those who died, we give an undying debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they have made. The pain you have endured, the hardship you suffered, to endure the flame of freedom, will never be extinguished.”

Those were the words from Chuck Warren Monday at the Memorial Day ceremony at Coral Ridge Cemetery, a final resting place for many who served. Hundreds came out to the traditional city service to pay tribute to our country’s fallen service personnel in a solemn ceremony attended by veterans, the families of those who died in service, dignitaries and distinguished guests.

Warren, program chairman for the event and an Air Force veteran, said it’s a time to acknowledge the sacrifices from those living and dead that enable us to be free and have the lives we have.

“Our veterans are important to us, so we like to honor them and their families today and every day,” Warren said. “We have a lot of veterans who work for us and families whose parents are veterans, so we like to give back to the community.”

Among the highlights of the event included Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki proclaiming Monday as Memorial Day, while the Sun-sations Barbershop Quartet performed the national anthem, an Armed Forces Medley and God Bless America, which they dedicated to one of their former singers, Richard Sturgeon, a World War II veteran of the Army Air Corps.

Roy St. Onge sang America the Beautiful, while members of the Oasis High School JROTC performed a gun twirling drill.

It was also a time to hear the stories from those who were there. John Langley, national president of the Vietnam Dog handlers Association and an Air Force veteran, told the story of our four-legged friends and their handlers who also sacrificed.

“All dogs who served their country should be remembered. More than 4,000 dogs served in Vietnam and saved many lives. They were our buddies and were like family. They had good days and bad. They laughed and they cried,” Langley said. “Sadly, the dogs were not brought home with the troops. They were either euthanized or turned over to the South Vietnamese army.”

Bob Hebner, Koran War Veterans Association past-president and Navy veteran, remembered as a boy in Rochester, N.Y. when they had Decoration Day, when all the veterans and uniformed people marched in the parade.

“We celebrate today not as a fun day, but as a day of honor and recognition for those who lay in the ground beneath us. They are the real heroes,” Hebner said.

It was mostly a time for reflection from the moment the Huey helicopter flew over the cemetery. Warren read the honor roll of those who rest in the cemetery, and the Gold Star and Blue Star parents of the wounded fallen took part in the wreath presentation that was followed by a 21-gun salute by the VFW Post 8463 and the playing of Taps.

All were invited to the funeral home for an open house after the service.

Sawicki said it was day to remember those who have given us our freedom.

“It’s amazing to see our city come together for our veterans. We have so many events here and so many groups who support them and do so much for them. It’s the most patriotic city I’ve ever live in,” Sawicki said.

Warren said he knows people will have their barbecues because it is a day for families to be together, but to get some people to come to bring awareness to the true meaning of the day is what the day is truly about.

Hebner said it made him sad that people have lost that true meaning, though it is much better now than how it was following Vietnam.

“Today it seems like a day to have a picnic and have a lot of joy. We fought the war so they can do this. But, on this day I am much sadder than I am happy,” Hebner said. “The veterans of Vietnam were ostracized and it should never have been. From that, we have learned, and when people come home from Iraq. They are treated with open arms.”