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World War II vets invited to Spirit of ’45 ceremony

By Staff | Jul 25, 2019

A special ceremony is being held next month in Fort Myers in honor of World War II veterans as part of the nationwide imitative Spirit of ’45 Day.

Observed the second weekend in August, the day is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Aug. 14, 1945, the day President Truman announced that the war was over.

Spirit of ’45 Lee County Chairman Eryka Aptaker said she went to a networking event in Naples in 2011 and heard someone speak about Spirit of ’45. She immediately wanted to join forces.

“No one was doing this in Lee County, so I brought it to Lee County. This is my ninth year,” she said. “My numbers have tripled. The first year I had 135 guests and now I’m close to 400. I kept outgrowing my venues.”

This year the Spirit of ’45 holds a special meaning for Aptaker as it marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and the 10th year of Spirit of ’45’s nationwide initiative.

The 2019 Lee County Spirit of ’45 will be held from 4:15 to 7:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, at Sanibel Harbour Marriot Resort, 17260 Harbour Pointe Drive in Fort Myers. The event is free for World War II veterans and spouses of those veterans only. Tickets are $25 per person for all other attendees.

Reservations must be made by Aug. 1, and tickets must be paid by Aug. 4. For reservations call Aptaker at (917) 607-4385.

Dinner will be served from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m., followed by a World War II veterans tribute and ceremony from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m.

The ceremony will include an opening speech; marching of the Color Guard, Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem sung; an opening prayer; POW/MIA service (missing man table), Placing of Wreath (wreath ceremony); speech on Spirit of ’45; guest speakers, several of whom are World War II vets; Guns N’ Hoses Pipes N’ Drums performance; flag folding ceremony; bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace”; the Honor Guard performing three volleys; taps and a closing speech.

Sponsorships are what makes this event doable; Aptaker is still seeking help.

“I don’t have the resources to finance this on my own,” she said.

There are two different sponsorship opportunities — business sponsorships that ranges from $50 to $1,000, or “Sponsor-A-Vet,” for $25.

The business sponsorship provides advertising opportunities in the program, as well as tickets to the dinner and ceremony.

The “Sponsor-A-Vet” program will cover the cost of a veteran’s meal. The sponsor’s name, or the name of a veteran, then will be listed in the program.

Those interested can call Aptaker, or email her at eja3090@comcast.net.

She said she wants to keep honoring World War II veterans for as long as she can because they are selfless and so accomplished.

“They never complained. They went in as young kids and did not know what they headed into,” Aptaker said. “I love being around that energy. It is just amazing to me. I am fascinated by them.”

She said she recently met a gentleman, 102 years old, who was a POW and in the Death March.

“It is my intention to spread this as far and wide as possible, so that we can honor members of our greatest generation before it is too late,” Aptaker said.

She encourages all World War II vets to attend the ceremony, and for anyone who knows a World War II veteran to tell them about the Spirit of ’45 imitative and encourage them to attend.