Wreaths Across America ceremony held at Tarpon Point Marina
Saturday morning more than 100 people gathered at Tarpon Point Marina in Cape Coral to honor U.S. military personnel at the 9th annual Wreaths Across America – Operation: Tribute at Sea.
Seven wreaths were lined up representing the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW/MIA’s. The seven wreaths would later be placed 3 miles off shore in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Each December, on National Wreaths Across America Day, the mission to ‘Remember, Honor and Teach’ is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as 1,200 additional locations in all 50 states, at sea, and abroad,” event coordinator Nancy McCarn said.
“Wreaths Across America’s mission has always been the same: Remember, Honor and Teach. We remember the fallen with today’s service by remembering the Southwest Florida Gold Star Mothers and their families. Let us share a moment to remember their sons and daughters.”
McCarn read off 19 names of local military men and women who lost their lives serving their country in 2017.
Guns ‘n Hoses Pipes ‘n Drums of Southwest Florida performed the U.S. Armed Forces Medley of five songs representing the branches of the military.
Commander Tom Lewis of Pine Island Post #136 explained the meaning of the “Missing Man Table,” also known as the Fallen Comrade Table.
‘This small table reminds us of those men and women missing from our ranks,” Lewis said. “They are referred to as POWs and MIAs. They are unable to be with their loved ones and families, so we join together to pay humble tribute to them.”
One by one the seven wreaths were escorted to the Wreaths Across America boat by Gold Star Mothers and Gulf Eagle Division Sea Cadets.
A flotilla of two dozen boats with police, Vietnam Brotherhood, American Legion Riders and the general public cruised three miles out to nautical location 26 23′ 870″ N 081 058′ 048″ W where the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tarpon was anchored. Overhead four SeaRey amphibious planes escorted the convoy of boats to the location.
“The SeaRey planes escort us down the river until we reached the Sanibel bridge where they fly the missing man formation,” McCarn said. “All but one of the pilots are veterans.”
One by one each of the seven wreaths was placed in the Gulf as the national anthem was played. Hundreds of roses and rose petals were placed in the water along with the ashes of American flags.
“We do this every year to show support for the families that have lost a loved one and for the families of those who don’t have a grave to go to,” McCarn said. “This year, the ashes from retired cloth American flags were also spread in the water.
During the day, wreaths were placed on more than 1,575,000 veterans graves including five Lee County cemeteries.
For more information about Wreaths Across America visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.