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Honoring & remembering

By Staff | May 31, 2016

The son of our current vice president may not have been in attendance, but his dog tag will be forever part of the fabric that is the Iraq War monument.

Civic leaders and other veterans gathered at the monument Monday in Eco Park to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice during a Memorial Day remembrance.

The highlight of the somber occasion was the placing of three more dog tags on the monument, including that of Iraq War veteran Beau Biden, son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, on the one-year anniversary of his death.

Tami Holliday, recently hired senior aide to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, presented Biden’s tag to Michelle Rosenberger, who helped found the monument three years ago.

“When I took this job, one of the first things I did was reach out to Michelle. She said she had tried for a long time to get in touch with the vice president,” Holliday said. “The senator contacted the vice president, who was thrilled we would think of his son and honor him in a city like this.”

Also placed on the monument were the tags of Medal of Honor recipient, U.S. Navy Seal Michael Monsoor, and of Jeff Kyle, who placed his own dog tag near those of his brother.

While getting permission from the Biden family was a hard-sought honor, the Monsoor tag was one as well.

“Monsoor was the fourth piece of the puzzle we had been missing for the past three years. We had not received permission from his family, so we did not want to place his dog tag until we did so,” Rosenberger said.

Also speaking were Kyle; Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki; National Executive Committeeman for the American Legion Dennis Boland; veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Col. T.J. Farrell, Sgts. Mike Giallombardo and Matt Doyle; and Vietnam veteran, Cpl. Gary Bowler, who at noon raised the flags at the memorial from half-staff.

Sawicki suggested we do what we can to not only remember those who have fallen, but to also help those still alive and still serving, as those small gestures add up quickly.

Boland said when one is questioned as to whether it’s worth it, the only person who can answer that question, can’t.

“I believe they would say they were doing what they wanted to do. They were where they wanted to be. I think that answers that question,” Boland said, quoting Gen. John Kelly. “It’s not for survivors to answer it. It’s for those young people to answer it. They do it with their actions.”

Farrell harkened back to President Abraham Lincoln, who presided over one of the bloodiest wars, the Civil War, and said it was important to not let those who died in service to have done it in vain, and to remember them.

He also quoted an oft-stated reading from John 15:13.

“There is no greater love than to lay down your life for one’s friends,” Farrell said. “These service members came from all walks of life, but shared similar qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity.”

Giallombardo said those who died in service were resilient, willing to throw their bodies on a grenade to save their fellow soldiers.

“What kind of person does that? Most people would say they were valiant and laudable, would you? They’re true leaders. They’re all heroes, from privates to senior officers,” Giallombardo said.

Shoshanna Johnson, an U.S. Army POW from the Iraq War, was scheduled to speak, but was unable to attend.

Boland showed his concern about how the meaning of Memorial Day has been forgotten by some, who consider it just part of a three-day weekend.

“While there’s nothing unpatriotic about an auto race, a trip to the beach or a barbecue, we are here to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day. Let us remember the tyrannical regimes have been toppled and genocide stopped because Americans sacrificed,” Boland said.