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Spirit of '45 Ceremony set for Aug. 12

August 1, 2018
By CJ HADDAD (cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

For the eighth consecutive year, the Lee County Spirit of '45-WWII Veterans tribute celebration will honor members from our "greatest generation" those born in the US during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II.

Spirit of '45 Day is observed on the second week in August each year, to coincide with the anniversary of Aug. 14, 1945, the day World War II ended.

This year's dinner and ceremony will take place at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort in Fort Myers on Sunday, Aug. 12, from 4:15-7:15 p.m.

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"I think that anything which honors our veterans is special, however, the World War II generation is dwindling at a rapid pace and their sacrifices and selflessness need to be recognized before it's too late," said Eryka Aptaker, organizer of the event. "It gives the World War II vets an opportunity to speak with other World War II vets, in a celebratory way, which only another World War II vet could understand."

The ceremony will include presentation of colors, National Anthem, speech on Spirit of '45, World War II guest speakers, POW/MIA service (Missing Man Table), flag folding ceremony, wreath ceremony, entertainment from Guns N' Hoses, "Echo Taps" and more.

Reservations are required to attend and must be made by Aug.1 and paid by Aug. 4.

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All World War II veterans are free; for all other the cost is $25 a person.

Sponsors are sought and truly make the event possible.

Numerous different sponsorship opportunities are available, ranging from $25 to $1000.

The new Sponsor-A-Vet program is a new alternative for those who would like to remember a loved one who may have served for just $25.

"The Sponsor-A-Vet program is new this year. In previous year's I reached out to local businesses for sponsorship, in exchange for their being able to advertise in my program. A friend of mine suggested personal sponsorships, which never dawned on me," Aptaker said. "There are so many people out there whose family member(s) served in World War II and are no longer with us. Thus far, it's been a beautiful response. It gives people the chance to honor their loved one's memory, or, very simply let's them sponsor a World War II veteran's meal on that day. Their names are listed in my program."

Aptaker has poured her heart, soul, time and money into this event over the years and calls it, "a labor of love," she does this without the backing of a major corporation nor does she do it professionally.

She stresses the importance of sponsors and how every year, she worries about the financial means to cover the costs, even having to reach into her own pocket at times.

"While I try to budget and negotiate, there's still a cost," Aptaker said. "For example, I charter a bus to bring the World War II vets from the Cape Coral Military Museum to and from my event, as many of them can no longer drive; there is a cost for the printing of the programs; I have a videographer who additionally assists in shooting live, so that the veterans who can't see well are able to see what is happening on a very large screen during the ceremony and, of course, there are costs associated with the venue / food."

There are not many members of our "greatest generation" left, according to Aptaker, a group she does not want to become forgotten.

"These men and women came from a generation which we, most likely, will never see again in our lifetime. It saddens me to think that our youth of today have no idea of the heroism and sacrifices made by our greatest generation," she said.

Aptaker has been involved with the event since its inception and finds a real connection with those she has spoken with over the course of nearly a decade.

"I have been doing this for eight years. It's been a blessing in my life. At the same time, I am the person who speaks with all of the World War II vets to take their reservations and learn a little about them. I have developed friendships with a number of them. It breaks my heart when I go down my list the following year and the telephone number is disconnected," she said solemnly. "I speak with their spouse or family member who tells me of their passing, etc. These men and women aren't just a number to me. They are real people who made real sacrifices and they deserve to be honored. Their gratitude is overwhelming and I keep trying to let them know, that it is I who is grateful to them."

For registration and sponsorship inquiries, call Aptaker at 917-607-4385 or email her at EJA3090@comcast.net.

Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort located at 17260 Harbour Pointe Drive, Fort Myers.

Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

 
 

 

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