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Honoring our fallen: Cape Coral to observe Memorial Day

May 22, 2014
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Memorial Day services for the public are planned Monday in Cape Coral and across the river.

The Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery hosts an annual service to honor the servicemen and woman who died in service, as does the Fort Myers Memorial Gardens Funeral Home and Cemetery. The Cape service starts at 10 a.m. in the Veterans Honor Garden; the Fort Myers one is at 9:30 a.m.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Coral Ridge has been putting on the Memorial Day service for more than 20 years.

"This is an annual event that we look forward to, and I believe that most of our community also looks forward to it," funeral director Jorge Bracero said. "It's just a way to say thank you."

Last year, approximately 400 to 500 people attended the service.

"We have a very big turnout every year," he said. "It seems like it gets bigger every year."

The hourlong service will include three keynote speakers and Cape Mayor Marni Sawicki will be present. The speakers are Alan Classon, U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, the past commander of the VFW Post 8463; Jeff Rousey, MSGT U.S. Army retired and an Iraq War veteran; and Ray Villanueva, a U.S. Air Force veteran and the commander of AMVETS Post 65.

A UH-1 "Huey" helicopter from Lee County Mosquito Control will do a ceremonial flyover.

"It kind of does a hover and salute," Bracero said.

The VFW Honor Guard will perform "Taps," and the audience will enjoy performances by the barbershop quarter The Sun-Sations, as well as Roy St. Onge. A World War II jeep will be present.

Attendees will have a chance to take a rubbing of their loved ones' name off the Honor Wall.

"It's a great opportunity for our young community to be present and just shake a veteran's hand and thank them for their service," he said, adding that Memorial Day is not just another day off.

"It's a time to reflect on the reason why we have this day," Bracero said.

Food and refreshments will be available following the service.

"We encourage people to bring a lawn chair," he said.

Fort Myers Memorial Gardens has been hosting its service for at least 10 years.

"As a cemetery, we feel strongly it's one of the most important days of the year," Donnell Sullivan, general manager, said. "People died fighting for our freedom."

About 500 people attended last year's event.

"We're really encouraging the youth to come out and get engaged and involved and see what it really means to honor people," he said.

The half-hour service will feature the JROTC and Marine Corps League, along with their Honor Guards. A military helicopter will do a flyover, and the main speaker is Ralph Santillo, founder and president of the Invest in America's Veterans Foundation. Several military groups will be present.

"We'll recognize the servicemen and women in the audience," Sullivan said. "There's just lots of veterans groups that will be represented."

Jack Wagner, president of Pride and Patriotism of Lee County, will also speak, and the Southwest Florida Veterans Museum will have its mobile museum on site for attendees to check out.

"It's like a mini-museum people can walk through," he said.

Seating will be available, but people are welcome to bring lawn chairs.

"We have a cookout right afterward," Sullivan said of the service.

Burgers, hotdogs and refreshments will be available.

Other activities are planned throughout Lee County in recognition of Memorial Day, including a luncheon at the Invest in America's Veterans Foundation and an Old Fashioned Family BBQ at the Shell Factory and Nature Park. Temple Beth Shalom of Cape Coral has a special service planned.

The Invest in America's Veterans Foundation will host the luncheon at 11 a.m. Monday in the foundations mess hall. The meal will feature hot dogs and hamburgers, and entertainment will be provided by the Blue Dirt Dixieland Band. There is no cost to attend; donations are welcome.

The Shell Factory and Nature Park will host the Old Fashioned Family BBQ from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday. The event will feature live entertainment, including a barber shop quartet and karaoke deejay, along with activities like kite flying, sack and three-legged races, watermelon eating contest, miniature golf tourney, crab races, bumper boat games and a bike decoration contest for children 10 and under.

Two-for-one admission to the nature park will be offered, as well as a special family fun park package and 10 percent off at the beach shack. The Soaring Eagle Zip Line will celebrate its grand opening.

Today, the Temple Beth Shalom of Cape Coral will hold a special and unique service in honor of Memorial Day from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The ceremony will be dedicated to the Jewish War Veterans Post 400, based in Lee County. The service is open to the public, and all veterans are invited to attend.

Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery is at 1630 S.W. Pine Island Road.

For more information, call (239) 283-0540 or visit:

Fort Myers Memorial Gardens Funeral Home and Cemetery is at 1589 Colonial Blvd.

For more information, call (239) 936-0555 or visit:

For details on the Invest in America's Veterans Foundation luncheon, call (239) 541-8704.

For details on the Old Fashioned Family BBQ, call (239) 995-3999 or visit:

For details on the service at the Temple Beth Shalom of Cape Coral, call (239) 772-4555.



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