Wreaths Across America
Two ceremonies are planned on Saturday to ensure no veteran is forgotten this holiday season.
In recognition of National Wreaths Across America Day, live balsam wreaths will be placed at the headstones of fallen veterans at nearly 1,000 locations across the country, overseas and in the Gulf of Mexico. Locally, an event is planned at Tarpon Point Marina, with another scheduled at Eco Park.
The seventh annual wreath presentation ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the marina. Nancy McCarn, location co-leader, explained that a convoy will lead the remembrance wreaths to the event with police, fire, the Patriot Guard Riders, Vietnam Brotherhood, American Legion Riders and others involved.
“There’s going to be about 40 or more in the escort,” she said.
There will be seven wreaths, one for each branch of the military – Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines – along with one for the Merchant Marines and one for the POW/MIAs.
“We have some guest speakers,” McCarn said.
The lineup includes Cape Mayor Marni Sawicki, a representative from the Sons of the American Revolution and a Purple Heart Wounded Warrior veteran. VFW Post 8463 will also take part.
“They are going to be posting the colors,” she said.
The event will also include the singing of the national anthem, playing of “Taps” and more. McCarn explained that the wreaths will then be loaded onto boats for the at-sea portion of the ceremony.
“Once all the wreaths are on board, we head out to sea,” she said.
The local event has been designated by the national not-profit Wreaths Across America as the first floating location in the United States in recognition of National Wreaths Across America Day. McCarn and her husband first began organizing the floating ceremony after learning none were being held.
“We are honoring the veterans that lost their lives at sea and those that chose to be buried there because they do not have a grave,” she said. “We want their families to know that they are not forgotten.”
Anchored about three miles off shore, the flotilla ceremony will involve the Lee County Sheriff’s Office honor guard, the Guns ‘n’ Hoses Pipes ‘n’ Drums of Southwest Florida’s bagpiper and others.
“There’s about 30 or 40 boats that go,” McCarn said.
Four SeaRey planes will fly overhead as part of the event.
“Three of them are veteran pilots,” she said.
Local boat owners are welcome to take part in the floating portion. The nautical location is: 26 23′ 870″ N 81 058′ 048″ W. The ceremony will also be broadcast on VHF Channels 16 and 72.
McCarn reported that about 100 people turned out for the land portion last year.
“We’re hoping to get more people to come out this year,” she said.
The second event will kick off at 10 a.m. at the park at the Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve. Location leader Lt. Col. Jim Spieth explained that it marks the sixth year for the ceremony.
Participants will include the Lee County Schools’ Cadet Squadron, local Korean War Veterans Association and representatives from Mission BBQ, along with other organizations.
It will include a welcoming and a presentation of the wreaths to participating Korean War veterans, who will place the wreaths on each memorial. “Taps” will be played, and a salute will be fired.
“It’s very short and sweet,” he said, adding that it lasts about 10 minutes.
The group will then be escorted by the American Legion Post 323, out of Lehigh Acres, to the Fort Myers Memorial Gardens. The event will continue at noon, with wreaths laid on the veterans’ graves.
“It’s more detailed and scripted there,” Spieth said of the continuation.
Close to 500 graves will receive wreaths this year.
“It’s to honor all veterans who have passed away,” he said. “Our objective is to put a wreath on every veteran’s grave throughout the United States.”
For more information, visit online: www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
The Tarpon Point Marina is at 6195 Black Marlin Lane.
Eco Park is located at the east end of Southeast 23rd Terrace.
The Fort Myers Memorial Gardens is at 1589 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers.