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Veterans Day Parade called biggest ever

By Staff | Nov 11, 2019

The largest parade in Southwest Florida honoring our country’s veterans marched down Cape Coral Parkway Monday morning to droves of supporters lining the streets to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our country.

Marching down Cape Coral Parkway at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 — the same time and date the armistice was signed 101 years ago marking the end of World War I — Southwest Florida’s rich military and veteran community was on full display as American flags were waved, red, white and blue garb worn and military gear proudly displayed.

“This is unbelievable,” said Linda Biondi, Veterans Day parade organizer, of the celebration. “The amount of participation is phenomenal this year. This is the biggest parade ever. The weather couldn’t have been better and the crowd appreciating our veterans is fabulous.”

The parade was led by retired Army Lt. Colonel, Anthony “Tony” Stout.

Stout, the husband of Cape Coral Councilmember Marilyn Stout, served for 27 years, 20 of those in Special Forces. He received the Bronze Star and 11 other medals for his service, including the Vietnam Gallantry Cross.

Stout was all smiles as he made his way down the parkway, waving for the crowd, which was cheering him on and thanking him for his service.

A plethora of local veterans and their organizations representing all branches of the military filled the street, along with countless members of the community who wanted to show their support.

Participants included American Legion Post #90, Cape Coral Elks Lodge #2596, DAV Chapter #108, Harney Point Post #8463 VFW, Hearts & Homes for Veterans, Knight of Columbus Assembly 2115, Korean War Veterans SWFL Chapter 155, United States Submarine Veterans Barb Base, Vietnam Brotherhood Bravo Company, Vietnam Vets of America Chapter 594 and more.

“This atmosphere is awesome,” Biondi said. “We may be big city, but we’re still small town.”

More than 500 JROTC students from across Lee County Schools marched in the parade.

Special Pops also sold beautifully crafted patriotic-themed bows.

The Cape Coral Police Department, Fire Department and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office all had vehicles in the parade, including SWAT and bomb squad trucks, motorcycles honor guards and more.

Local Boy Scout troops, the North Fort Myers High School and Ida Baker Marching Bands, Veteran Barn Door Project, the Cape Coral Animal Shelter, Cape Coral BMX, Caloosa Jeepers of SWFL, Palmetto Pine Country Club, SWFL Military Museum, and many, many more all participated.

Restored vintage military vehicles motoring down the parkway to patriotic music along side veterans drummed up a feeling of pride for many in attendance.

“Today is special for all of us,” said Lonnie Businger, Army veteran and Southwest Florida resident. “For one thing, when you wore a uniform in the ’60s, you weren’t real popular. Now, we’re getting repaid for that 100-fold. It’s really great.”

Businger said he was lucky enough to not have had to go to Vietnam during his time in the military, but said, “Guys that did, I think we all owe them, including myself, a great deal or gratitude.”

Businger served three years in the Army from 1967-1970. He said he’s happy to be in Florida celebrating his brother and sisters, and those who fought for the freedoms we have today.

“It’s a great day in paradise, honoring guys that really deserve it,” Businger said.

Korean War veteran Bob Cronin, who served six years with the Army, called Veterans Day the most important day of the year in his heart.

“It’s very special,” Cronin said. “It’s probably the most special day of the year for me.”

The spry 82-year-old took in all of the days excitement and pageantry from the parkway, remembering his fellow veterans fondly for all they sacrificed.

“I look at my fellow veterans here, and I get choked up sometimes,” he said. “It’s truly a pleasure to be here.”

Cronin said it’s always a great experience to enjoy a day of celebrating all branches of the military, and that Americans should know how truly lucky we are to have the freedoms we do.

“We have a lot to be thankful for in this country,” Cronin said. “God has certainly blessed America, and I hope America realizes the blessings that we have.”

As brigades of former military personnel from all walks of life and many different wars and war times made their way down the parkway, many veterans in the crowd stood at attention, saluting their comrades in arms.

”It’s incredible,” Biondi said of watching the veterans interact with the people. “It’s just overwhelming. It’s heartwarming. It brings tears.”

Biondi was so grateful to the community members who came out to show their support, and to all that played a role in making this year’s Veterans Day parade the largest in Cape Coral’s history, and one to never forget.

“I just want to thank everyone,” Biondi said. “We worked so well with parks and recreation — Todd (King) Kristin (Bean) and their team. A big thank you to my whole team as well — everybody that’s helped with this parade, its been amazing.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj