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Memorial Day events abound

By Staff | May 25, 2017

Several events are planned in Cape Coral and Fort Myers in observance of Memorial Day.

Monday will mark the federal holiday set aside for remembering those who died while serving in America’s Armed Forces. Ceremonies are planned at the Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery in the Cape and the Fort Myers Memorial Gardens in Fort Myers. Both events are open to the public.

The Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library will also hold a ceremony on its grounds on Memorial Day, with another separate ceremony to take place at the Iraq War Monument at Eco Park.

* Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery

Marking its 36th year, Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery will host its Memorial Day Remembrance from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Veterans Honor Garden, at 1630 S.W. Pine Island Road.

“As a local business, we employ veterans here and families of veterans,” Chuck Warren, the master of ceremonies and a U.S. Air Force veteran, said. “So we feel a much greater responsibility to honor the true heros who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”

Last year, more than 500 people attended.

“We usually have about the same,” he said. “Each year grows a little bit at a time.”

There will be covered seating available, as well as plenty of water.

“Our special guest this year is the Gold Star parents and families,” Warren said.

He explained that the designation is for families who have lost a loved one in the military service.

There will be a roll call of the veterans who have been buried at the cemetery in the past year.

The guest speakers will include U.S. Navy veteran Bob Hebner, the past president of the Florida Korean War Veterans Association, and retired U.S Army Sgt. First Class Aaron Forum, Special Forces.

“We’ll have a flyover of a Huey helicopter,” Warren said.

There will be a motorcycle ride in by the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard. The Oasis High School Army JROTC will perform, along with Jukebox and Vietnam veteran Roy St. Onge.

“They’re going to play patriotic songs,” he said.

The Cape Coral Fire Department will have two aerial ladder trucks taking part, while the Cape Police Department’s Special Operations Team and Lee County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit will be on hand.

Etching paper will be provided so families can take a rubbing of their loved one’s name.

Following the service, refreshments will be served at the main entrance.

Warren encouraged the public to stop by.

“Come out and honor the true heroes and spend time with your family and other members of the community,” he said. “Show support for the families of deceased veterans.”

For more information, call 239-283-0540 or visit: www.coralridgecemetery.com.

* Fort Myers Memorial Gardens

Also an ongoing annual tradition, the Fort Myers Memorial Gardens will hold its Memorial Day ceremony starting at 9:30 a.m. in the Field of Honor, at 1589 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers.

“Memorial Day gives us an opportunity to recognize those that have died for this country and our freedom,” Donnell Sullivan, general manager, said. “It’s about freedom. It’s about sacrifice.”

Last year, approximately 500 to 600 people attended.

Organizers are expecting the same this year.

The guest speaker is U.S. Army Sgt. Jeff Barillaro, also known as “Solider Hard.” Barillaro founded Redcon-1 Music Group, which performs for veterans and military families as a form of PTSD therapy.

“He’s producing music that’s aimed at soldiers with PTSD,” he said.

“He’s got PTSD and he’s trying to help others cope with it,” Sullivan added.

There will be a laying of wreaths, playing of “Taps” and rifle squad.

“There’s going to be a flyover in the beginning from a Huey helicopter,” he said.

The LCSO Honor Guard will be presenting the colors.

A free cookout, with refreshments, will follow.

Sullivan encouraged to public to come out.

“We just think Memorial Day is not just cookouts and picnics, it’s the day to really reflect on the sacrifice that gives us the freedom to be who we are,” he said.

Sullivan noted that the public is invited to come out before 8 a.m. Saturday to help place American flags on all of the graves. Last year, multiple community groups took part in the annual tradition.

For more information, call 239-791-5721 or visit: www.fortmyersmemorial.com.

* Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library

The Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library will host its Memorial Day Celebration, which has become another tradition in the Cape, from noon to 4 p.m. on its grounds at 4820 Leonard St.

“It’s a day to memorialize the veterans who have been killed in action, POWs, veterans that have passed away in general,” Ralph Santillo, the founder and president of the organization, said.

“I call it a celebration, but it really isn’t,” he added. “It’s a day of remorse.”

Last year, about 400 people attended. Approximately 800 people turned out in 2015.

“So I don’t know what to expect this year,” Santillo said.

“I’m hoping we get 500 to 600 (people),” he added.

The guest speaker will be U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, District 19.

There will be a tribute to Hector Cafferata, who recently passed away.

“He’s our local Medal of Honor recipient,” Santillo said.

“We will have his Medal of Honor on display,” he added.

A flag retirement ceremony will take place for worn and dirty American flags.

“We’re going to have a formal ceremony,” Santillo said.

Local JROTC members and the Civil Air Cadets will participate.

“It’s something that many people are not aware of,” he said. “You can’t just throw it in the garbage.”

Entertainment will be provided by the Hot Flashz dancers and Guns n Hoses.

“They’ll be putting on a spectacular performance,” Santillo said.

“All of this is geared to focus on the definition of Memorial Day,” he added.

The museum will hold an open house for the public.

There will also be a pancake breakfast available from 8 to 11 a.m. for $6 per person.

Santillo encouraged the public to stop by.

“We have displays starting from the Revolutionary War to the current conflict,” he said. “They should come and see our history.”

For more information, call 239-541-8704 or visit: swfmm.org.

* Iraq War Monument

For the fourth year in a row, a Memorial Day ceremony will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Iraq War Monument, located at the Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve on Southeast 23rd Terrace.

“It’s to honor our fallen heroes,” Michelle Rosenberger, the monument chairperson, said.

“The true meaning of Memorial Day,” she added.

Last year, approximately 150 people attended.

Rosenberger noted that organizers are expecting about the same this year.

The guest speaker is U.S. Army Sgt. Jeff Barillaro, also known as “Solider Hard.” Barillaro founded Redcon-1 Music Group, which performs for veterans and military families as a form of PTSD therapy.

“I have a few U.S. Army (members),” she said.

Rosenberger will be placing U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin’s gold dog tags. She explained that Maupin was captured in April 2004 in an attack known as the Good Friday Ambush.

“His remains were finally recovered on March 21, 2008,” Rosenberger said.

The ceremony will also consist of two helicopter flyovers, along with a 21-gun salute.

The city is providing seating and water for attendees.

Rosenberger encouraged the public to come by.

For more information, contact 239-784-8657 or email iraqmonument@yahoo.com.