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Memorial Day: The Cape salutes military members who have lost their lives serving

By Staff | May 21, 2020

Amidst a global pandemic, Americans can still pay tribute to fallen members of the military this Monday on Memorial Day – a day to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for their country.

Locally, residents can still honor our nation’s heroes on Monday at locations throughout the city, while some long-time ceremonies have been postponed for a later date.

Whether you feel comfortable enough to attend a ceremony in person or would rather watch a live stream from home, Memorial Day is how America has saluted those that have lost their life while serving in the U.S. Military since 1868.

Coral Ridge

Coral Ridge Funeral Home & Cemetery will hold its 39th annual Memorial Day Remembrance Service 10 a.m. Monday morning in the 15-acre ceremony area.

Coral Ridge also will live streaming the service on its Facebook page.

“No one forgets the true meaning of Memorial Day and no one forgets that behind every name is a legacy of someone who gave their life in the name of our great nation,” said Chuck Warren, director at Coral Ridge. “This is our way to honor our patriots.”

Coral Ridge staff will begin placing American flags at each of the nearly 3,000 veteran graves at the cemetery today.

It also offers a very patriotic feeling when driving by, seeing thousands of flags waving in unison, marking and honoring those who fought for freedoms we have today.

“It’s breathtaking and really makes you stop and think – and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Warren said. “We want everybody to join in some way for an active remembrance for such a very important day.”

Though having the public join the ceremony was up in the air for a while due to the current climate, Warren always planned to have some sort of memorial, even if that ended up being just himself reading the names of passed-on veterans who rest in the cemetery.

“We were going to have something no matter what,” he said. “We’re going to continue on.”

The service will begin with a flyover from Lee County Mosquito Control’s Douglas DC-3 aircraft followed by a motorcycle memorial ride-in by the American Legion Riders from Posts 90 and 136.

The Cape Coral VFW will provide the colors and perform military honors, gun salute and taps.

Florida House Majority Leader Rep. Dane Eagle will be the guest speaker and Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello will deliver the Pledge of Allegiance and read a proclamation.

Coral Ridge will implement social distancing guidelines set by the CDC and state agencies.

The ceremony area being 15-acres provides ample opportunity to space out attendees.

The Cape Coral Fire Department will be in attendance with two ladders displaying a large American flag between the apparatus.

The Cape Coral Police Department special ops and Lee County Sheriff’s Office K9 unit also will be involved.

“Memorial Day is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the men and women who have served and sacrificed, and we just hope families will come out and join our services and gain some kind of deeper appreciation for the importance of honoring these individuals,” Warren said.

The event will be held rain or shine.

Coral Ridge Funeral Home & Cemetery is at 950 Chiquita Blvd.

* SWFL Military Museum & Library

The Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library will host a Memorial Day Tribute from noon to 3 p.m. inside of the museum.

There will only be 140 people allowed inside at any one time per current guidelines.

The day will feature live entertainment, raffles, a silent auction and a special remembrance for the 14 men who passed away aboard the USS Nimitz after a flight deck accident on May 26, 1981.

“We didn’t want to let the day pass without doing something,” said Denise Wood, events coordinator for the museum.

Cape Coral resident and City Council candidate Chris Cammarota, who was aboard the USS Nimitz the day of the incident, will be in attendance along with five others who also were on the ship.

They will present a tribute to the men who lost their lives that day.

Bryan Delahunt, Cape Coral resident, nurse and also a candidate for City Council, has a son who was just discharged from the USS Nimitz in March. They also will be on hand with a display of the supercarrier.

“It should be a nice day for all of us,” Wood said. “It was very important to us to do something.”

Originally, the tribute was to be held outside in the parking lot, but Wood said the city requested they move the event inside their facility.

Wood, though a bit perplexed as to why the city would move them inside given the current state of affairs, is looking at it in a positive light, hoping those who may not have ever seen the museum before can get a chance to look around and come back when they are fully operational.

Wood said the museum plans to reopen at the 50 percent capacity mark on June 2. Their free Tuesday Veteran Lunch will not take place that Tuesday. Wood said those lunches will not take place until more time passes and they figure out the best way to gather people once again.

A $5 boxed lunch will be available for attendees as well as refreshments. COVID-19 regulations for social distancing and health requirements will be observed.

The SWFL Military Museum & Library is at 4820 Leonard St.

* Tribute to Iraq solider

The annual Memorial Day remembrance at Eco Park has been cancelled this year, but that hasn’t stopped event organizer Pfc. Michelle Sisco Rosenberger from honoring her comrades.

Rosenberger will deliver a virtual message via Facebook to honor three Iraq War soliders who died in the line of duty and will eventually place their tags amongst others remembered at the Eco Park monument.

She will deliver her speech at Mission BBQ in Fort Myers while a flyover takes place.

This year, Rosenberger will honor U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, U.S. Army Specialist Adriana Salem and U.S. Army Ranger Specialist Etienne Murphy.

Adkins just received the Medal of Honor last year for covering up a suicide bomber that cost him his life, saving many in his platoon, in 2007. Salem lost her life in 2005 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Murphy was killed during a vehicle rollover in Syria in 2017.

Murphy’s mother is writing a book of poems centered on the three years since she lost her son. The poetry book titled, “Because You’re Not Here,” is set to be released on the third anniversary of his death, May 26, the day after Memorial Day.

Though Rosenberger is disappointed she cannot hold the traditional ceremony at Eco Park, she would not let the day pass without paying tribute.

“I’m doing something,” Rosenberger said. “I’ve been doing this for the past six years. Our soldiers didn’t waiver from performing their duties, we shouldn’t forget about that.”

She is hoping to have a proper ceremony to place the dog tags of those to be honored on the monument at Eco Park on July 4.

Find the video on Monday around noon or shortly after by visiting the “Iraq War Monument” Facebook page.

* Fort Myers Memorial Gardens postponed

The annual remembrance at Fort Myer Memorial Gardens Funeral Home & Cemetery will not go on this year due to COVID-19.

“In light of the current state of affairs, we will not have any type of ceremony of formal service on Memorial Day,” said General Manager Dan Bryan. “We are going to decorate our veterans’ graves as we’ve done in years in the past.”

Memorial Gardens will have a message online pertinent to today’s climate and will honor its veterans on “a date to be determined.”

Bryan encouraged the public to still celebrate our nation’s fallen veterans even if they do not feel comfortable leaving the house or were planning on attending the ceremony.

“Find a way,” Bryan said. “Fly your flag. Play some patriotic music. Talk to your kids about the significance of the day – it’s not just the start of summer. We are free because of the sacrifices of a whole lot of folks.”

Memorial Gardens will be open to the public if they wish to walk through the area to pay tribute.

“Come out to the cemetery and just walk around and look at all of those who have served by a flag marking their grave,” Bryan said. “Bring your family, find a place to park and just walk through. Enjoy the serenity and the sanctity of Memorial Gardens and see the impact our veterans have had on our community.”

Memorial Gardens is at 1589 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj