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Honoring the fallen: There are many Memorial Day events in Cape, area

By Staff | May 25, 2018

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance.

A day to remember all of the courageous men and women who put their country before themselves and sacrificed their life fighting for the freedoms we as Americans enjoy today.

Cape Coral and Southwest Florida have many different events to honor military personnel and their families who have known the heart-wrenching feeling of having an American Flag brought to their doorstep, fearful that their worst nightmare has come true.

Events include:

* Coral Ridge

The 37th annual Memorial Day Remembrance held by Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery takes place Monday at 10 a.m. at 1630 S.W. Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.

“Join us to pay tribute to the heroism of our fallen Veterans, give thanks for the valor of others, and remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others,” Coral Ridge said in a written statement.

This ceremony will take place in the Veterans Honor Garden and is free and open to the public.

The event begins with a motorcade into the cemetery, slowly pulling up to the site where two fire trucks will hang a large American Flag between cross aerial ladders.

An always exciting thing to witness will be a fly-over by a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter from the Lee County Mosquito Control District.

“We employ veterans, families of veterans, they’re the true heros who give the ultimate sacrifice. Every day is Memorial Day. It’s a time to pause, honor and memorialize the fallen. Their legacies will never die,” said Air Force Veteran and manager of Coral Ridge and program chair Chuck Warren.

Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello will lead the Pledge of Allegiance before reading a proclamation from the city.

Other keynote speakers will be Amira Fox, chief assistant state attorney 20th Judicial Circuit, a true “veterans’ advocate,” said Warren. She will discuss the meaning of Memorial Day to her and her family.

Jon Marr, a U.S. Navy veteran, will give us his view of Memorial Day, his family having a long military history dating back to the civil war.

Patriotic melodies will be performed by the Gulf Coast Harmonizers, along with U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran Roy St. Onge.

A “roll call” of all of the deceased veterans laid to rest in the ceremony will be read by Warren.

“The annual Memorial Day observance is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the men and women who have served and who have sacrificed,” said Warren.

“We hope the families who join us for the service will gain a deeper appreciation for the importance of honoring our military, whether that is those currently serving or veterans who served in the past.”

Warren is a big believer in the history lesson of this day, no matter what age you are.

“People should come out to understand the true meaning of Memorial Day,” he said, “Learning the history of our military is important. I strongly urge families to come and share this with their children and grandchildren.”

Other participants in the ceremony will be Harney Point VFW 8463, American Legion Post 90, Vietnam Veterans of America Firebase Chapter 594, Combat Infantrymen’s Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Oasis High School Army JROTC “Shark Battalion,” Boy Scout Troop 8463, Cub Scout Pack 82, Cape Coral Fire Department, Cape Coral Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

A neat keepsake is also available for families of fallen veterans buried in the Honor Garden on the Memorial Wall. Located next to the large flag pole, a rubbing of your loved-one’s name can be taken as a memoriam.

The Vietnam Veterans of America Firebase Chapter 594 will display large photos of local Vietnam veterans with a brief passage telling of their life and duties underneath.

“All veterans will have a flag placed at their grave from Memorial Day to Flag Day,” Warren said.

A special thanks is given to the Gold Star parents and families. “These people have lost a family member in the line of duty and it’s important to have them be a part of our ceremony,” Warren added.

Refreshments will be served at the main entrance following the service.

* Memorial Gardens

Fort Myers Memorial Gardens will hold its annual Memorial Day Event this Monday, at 9 a.m. at 1589 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers.

“Join us at Fort Myers Memorial Gardens for our annual Memorial Day event, as we honor our nation’s fallen and pay tribute to local service members both at home and abroad,” said Memorial Gardens website.

“We begin placing flags on veterans’ graves starting Saturday morning, and have thousands of veterans in our cemetery to pay our respect to,” said Donnell Sullivan, general manager at Memorial Gardens since 2004.

“It’s really important to remember those who aren’t with us today,” said Sullivan, “These people have fought for our freedom and it is our mission to memorialize their lives and to show honor and respect.”

The ceremony kicks off with a fly-over from a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter from the Lee County Mosquito Control District.

The keynote speaker of the event will be Debi Lux, co-founder of Collier County Honor Flight, a program started in 2013, bringing local veterans to Washington D.C. to explore the memorials dedicated to their honor and service.

Music will be performed by Spirit of the Gulf, an award-winning a cappella chorus, including the national anthem and Armed Forces Medley.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office will perform Honor Guard duties.

Once colors are presented, the anthem will be sung, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and guest speaker Lux.

The ceremony will conclude with Taps, and a laying of a memorial wreath at the cemetery.

“It is important to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, it gives us a chance to be patriotic and show respect to our fallen soldiers,” added Sullivan.

A barbecue buffet lunch will be served in our Colonial Family Center once the event has concluded.

“Come join us for hamburgers, hot dogs and other delicious food,” said Sullivan.

This event is free and open to the public.

* SW Florida Military Museum and Library

The SW Florida Military and Museum will hold its annual Memorial Day services on Monday starting at 11 a.m. outside with a flag ceremony, followed by a lunch inside at noon.

“The veterans have been doing this since 2012,” said Nancy Sloan, organizer of the event.

The outside program will start with the flag lowered to half-staff where a prayer will be offered and then again hoisted to full height by the Sea Cadets, who will conclude the outdoor portion with a bugle call.

Inside of the museum will be guests Ralph Santillo – who will be giving a tribute to Memorial Day, Gazo Nemeth, member of the infamous Ghost Army and a spry 95 years old, and Tom Wagner, Purple Heart recipient.

The Civil Air Patrol will present colors for the event.

Guns n’ Hoses, a drum and pipe band will perform at 1 p.m. inside the museum, followed by Hot Flashz, a local women’s charity dance group comprised of women 45 and older.

“Along with the event, we have the museum to go through, and we are proud to have the Sea Cadets, Civil Air Patrol and Guns n’ Hoses, joining us to celebrate Memorial Day,” Sloan added.

“The day is special for us because we have Gazo Nemeth of the WWII Ghost Army and Tom Wagner Purple Heart recipient being introduced by Ralph Santillo.”

Lunch will be $6.

The SW Military Museum and Library is at 4820 Leonard St. in Cape Coral, free parking is available.

* Eco Park

A Memorial Day remembrance will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, hosted by PFC Michelle Sisco Rosenberger at the Iraq Monument on 2061 SE 24th St. in Cape Coral.

“This event is to pay tribute to the people who have kept us free and to also pay homage to the families they left behind,” Rosenberger said.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office will conduct Honor Guard duties with “Retreat to the Colors” performed by Richard Osman, USAF A1C.

A’Layahna Checo of Cypress Lake High School Center of the Arts will sing the national anthem and lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The opening prayer will be given by the Rev. Pete Wilcox, followed by a proclamation from Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello.

Five fallen veterans will be honored and recognized at the event, each being remembered with words from fellow military vets.

Rosenberger will be honoring US Army SGT Elmer Krause (KIA 4/9/04), US Army medic SPC Richard Hendrzak will be honoring US Army SGT Mike DiRaimundo (KIA 1/8/04), US Army Ranger SGT Matt Doyle will be honoring US Army Ranger 1LT Weston Lee (KIA 4/29/17), US Army CPL Damien Luten, Purple Heart recipient will be honoring the 11 KIAs of the Ambush of Nasiriyan 507th Maintenance Company in 2003 and US Navy LCDR Jacob Cahalan will be honoring US Navy Seal CPO Charles Keating IV (KIA 5/3/16).

The American Flag will be raised from half-staff to full-mast at noon, where USMC CPL Gary Bowler will share some words before raising the flags.

A helicopter fly-over by Lee County Sherrif’s Office and Lee County Mosquito Control District will occur, followed by a 21-gun salute from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

Osman will then play “Taps” and “Amazing Grace” will be sung by Checo.

The ceremony will conclude with the placing of the five dog tags on the Iraq Monument.

Each tag will be read by US Army LTC Christopher Crowley and closing prayer by Wilcox.

Rosenberger says the community should support all Memorial Day Services, “People should not just attend my ceremony, but all of the others going on around the city.”

* 5K Sandoval Run

The Sandoval Community will hold its fifth annual Memorial Day 5K walk/run at 7 a.m., starting at the Sandoval Community Clubhouse.

This event is for all age levels, with prizes for winners in many different age groups.

The top three male and female participants from these groupings will be awarded: 5 and under, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10-11, 12-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69 and 70-plus.

Awards for Masters(40-49), Grand Masters(50-59) and Senior Grand Masters(60+) will also be presented by Oasis High School’s engineering students who created a special hand-made award.

The first 250 registered will receive a T-shirt.

This 3.1 mile race will be held rain or shine, with proceeds benefiting the Oasis High School Booster Club.

“We have a huge presence of Oasis High School student in Sandoval. Charter schools have different funding than public school and we’re helping them raise money for their booster club who pays for lots of different things for the students,” said Krista Zivkovic, race director.

Oasis’ JROTC will send a color guard to perform duties shortly before the race, along with Oasis students playing a unique version of the Star Spangled Banner on ukuleles.

An Oasis student will also be signing for hearing impaired participants.

Packets for the race, which include a T-shirt, race bib and goodies from sponsors can be picked up at The Run Shoppe, 1407 Cape Coral Parkway East on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m..

Registration is $25 for adults, $15 for ages 17 and younger and $50 for families(same household).

Day-of registration will be held at 6 a.m. at Sandoval, with an additional $5 charge.

Sandoval is asking that any of their residents participating in the event walk to the start as parking will be limited.

Gift cards will be given out to top performers, as well as raffle-style prize baskets announced various times throughout the day. All walker/runners are entered to win a prize basket.

For online registration, visit active.com and search for Sandoval 5K.

Sandoval Community Center is at 2573 Sandoval Blvd. in Cape Coral.