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Spirit of ‘45 to honor World War II veterans

By Staff | Jul 5, 2016

As the years progress, it is getting harder and harder to bring World War II veterans together, as they have become too frail or pass away.

On Sunday, Aug. 14, one of the largest gatherings of these heroes will take place at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort in Fort Myers, when the annual Spirit of ’45 program will take place from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The event will feature dinner, which will be free for World War II veterans and their spouses ($25 for others), a tribute to those who gave their lives and a ceremony for all who served, much in the same way they do them on Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

The Spirit of ’45 is a national celebration of the end of World War II, which happened on that day 71 years ago. Hundreds of celebrations happen all over the country.

Eryka Aptaker, who has chaired the event for Lee County for six years, said the event started in California by Edith Shain, the woman who claims to be the nurse who was kissed by a sailor in that famous Time Magazine photo.

“She fought for a day of remembrance for the end of World War II. That’s how Spirit of ’45 got started,” Aptaker said. “Congress passed it in 2010 to be a permanent day of remembrance.”

Aptaker learned about it at a business networking in Naples and wanted to learn more about it and decided to do it in Lee County.

She said some have asked why the event isn’t done to coincide with Memorial Day, but because the event is date specific, it can’t.

The event usually features some speakers who served in the war to talk about their experiences, Aptaker said, because she believes they need to be heard.

The problem is that nearly all of those who served are age 90 and over. Remarkably, Aptaker said she has gotten quite a few of them to come. About 80 of them came last year and the same are expected this year.

“Believe it or not I get new people every year on my list,” Aptaker said. “We’ve been doing this for six years and I keep a list of everybody’ names and numbers. A few years ago we had 145 names and last year we had 350.”

Reservations must be made by Aug. 4. For more information, call Eryka at 917-607-4385.