Flag raising to be held at historic veterans cemetery
A somewhat “forgotten” section of the Fort Myers cemetery will come to life this Saturday on Armed Forces Day.
The American Military Veterans Foundation (AMMILVETS) will hold a special flag raising ceremony at 10 a.m. to commemorate the fallen veterans who are laid to rest in the Oakridge section where an American flag has not flown over these soldiers in nearly nine months.
“Someone reached out to us about the flag pole being down in the Oakridge section of Fort Myers cemetery in September due to Hurricane Irma, so we wanted to make it right,” said Keith Campbell, national board member for AMMILVETS.
In early April, a call was made to Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, who put a temporary flag in place until a permanent one arrived.
The Oakridge section is a segregated sector of the cemetery, where African-American veterans and some civilians from World War I, World War II, Vietnam and even the Civil War are buried.
The area is not the most well-kept, with some unmarked graves, broken head stones and poor landscaping conditions.
“Getting this section to where it needs to be is something we’re working towards,” added Campbell.
“We are in-conjuncture with the Daughters of the American Revolution and the city to clean up and restore the Oakridge section of Fort Myers cemetery.”
A new flag pole is now in place and a special flag has been ordered.
“We sent an inquiry to Senator Nelson’s office to request a flag to be flown over our nation’s Capitol in D.C., that we then received in a timely manner to now be flown over Oakridge,” said Campbell.
The new flag will be motorcaded in and carried by Gold Star Mother of SWFL Chapter President Beth Haely where she will present it to the color guard led by Master Chief Raph Camp(U.S. Navy).
The temporary flag will be taken down and presented to the city by the AMMILVETS to be used at another location.
Flying along with the American Flag, a POW Flag will also be flown over Oakridge, the first time such flag has been added at that location.
The national anthem will then be sung by Channing Frampton of Wink News.
A moment of silence will follow, along with a prayer from the AMMILVETS chaplain Dr. Patrick Holbert (U.S. Navy).
Keynote speakers will include Campbell and Henderson and a special wreath will be placed by the flag pole by Sheara Hamilton of Gold Star Mothers of SWFL.
A roll call of all of those laid to rest in the Oakridge cemetery will occur after the wreath has been placed, a hand salute and “Taps” will conclude the ceremony.
“It’s all about honoring the veterans,” said Campbell of the event.
“Armed Services Day is about recognizing those who have battled in all of our wars. The flag raising ceremony has protocol and prestige, it’s special. How often do you get to be a part of one? There’s meaning to it,” he added.
“The Board of Directors at American Military Veterans Foundation would like to ‘thank’ the City of Fort Myers for all they did and for letting us put this special event together,” said the AMMILVETS press release.
The Oakridge section of Fort Myers cemetery is at 1728 Henderson Avenue in Fort Myers.
The public is invited to attend.