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Multiple Memorial Day events slated

By CJ HADDAD - | May 26, 2022

As a nation, we always remember to “never forget.”

The Southwest Florida community will pay homage this Memorial Day to the brave men and women of the military who have died in service to their country.

Residents have a myriad of opportunities over the holiday weekend to pay their respects and honor those that put it all on the line in the name of freedom, national security and independence.

Observed each year on the last Monday in May, 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 in Cape Coral will host its 41st Annual Memorial Day service at 10 a.m. on Monday in the Veterans Honor Garden at 950 Chiquita Blvd. S. The event is free and open to the public and also available to watch via live webcast.

“The annual Memorial Day observance is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the men and women who have served and who have sacrificed,” said Coral Ridge director and Air Force veteran Chuck Warren. “We hope the families who join us for our remembrance service gain a deeper appreciation for the importance of honoring our military, whether it’s those currently serving or veterans who served in the past.

The service will bring community leaders and veteran’s organizations together to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Cape Coral Police Department will serve as Color Guard; Cape Coral Fire Department with two Crossed Aerial Ladders flying the American flag as a backdrop; Juan Cordero, 1SG U.S. Army Ret., will serve as the chaplain; Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and read a proclamation from the city.

“To me, this is the most important event we hold (at Coral Ridge),” Warren said. “We employ veterans and family members of veterans. We feel we have a greater responsibility to honor our true heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice to our county. We also try to assist their families during difficult times they face on a daily basis. We consider each day Memorial Day and we always want to honor and remember. We want everyone to pause and memorialize our veterans and make sure their legacies never die, and continue to make Memorial Day matter to everyone.”

Special guests will include Gold Star Parents and families; these are individuals who have lost a child or sibling while serving. AnnMarie Babos, daughter of World War II Army veteran, will perform patriotic songs. A “roll call” of deceased veterans will be read by Warren, who serves as program chair. Guest participants include J.(Mick) Sheldrake, Senior Chief U.S. Navy retired; State Rep. Mike Giallombardo of District 77, a U.S. Army veteran and Warrant Officer in the Florida National Guard; Gold Star Parents Margaret and Bill Eggers; Frank Cohn, a retired Army Colonel and World War II veteran and Holocaust survivor who escaped Germany prior to Crystal Night Pogrom 1938; Lt. Col Vincent Cummings Joint Task Force-United States Army Military District Of Washington; and Knights of Columbus Assembly 2115.

“I feel all of our speakers will bring a different viewpoint, but very impactful viewpoint, of what Memorial Day really stands for,” Warren said. “Our speakers have their heart and soul in it.”

Additional activities will include the opportunity for family members to take a rubbing of their loved ones’ names on the Honor Wall (that includes the names of the more than 3,000 veterans buried there); a memorial wreath presentation; a ceremonial fly-over and salute by the Lee County Mosquito Control District; and a motorcycle ride-in by the American Legion and Patriot Guard Riders. American Legion Post 136 Honor Guard, Gold Star Mothers Association, The Vietnam Veterans of America Firebase Chapter 594, Combat Infantrymen’s Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Boy Scouts of America Troop, Cub Scout Pack, Cape Coral Fire Department, Cape Coral Police Department, and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, will also participate.

“We really encourage families to bring their children out to the event,” Warren said. “We want our young people to have perspective when they get older.”

Warren, also the chairman of the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program in Cape Coral, will speak on the need to honor and provide services for veterans who are homeless.

“We set out to make sure the homeless veterans are given the respect and honor they deserve,” Warren said. “They fought for our country and they defended us. We never want a homeless veteran to ever be forgotten.”

Coral Ridge Funeral Home & Cemetery is at 950 Chiquita Blvd. To view the live online webcast, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db3ExGD7K0E.

Memorial Gardens

Memorial Gardens Funeral Home and Cemetery in Fort Myers will host its annual Memorial Day service with a cookout immediately following.

The service honoring local and national heroes will take place in Fort Myers Memorial Gardens’ Field of Honor at 9:30 a.m. on May 30.

“This is a special event in our hearts,” said Memorial Gardens General Manager Dan Bryan. “It’s our time to give back to the community. Our effort here is to help honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, help educate the newer generations as to what the day truly represents other than the symbolic first day of summer, and celebrate those in the community who have served.”

The ceremony will include military aircraft fly over, participation from the Guns N Hoses Pipes and Drum Corps of SWFL, Harney Point VFW Post 8463 of Cape Coral, with the keynote addresses delivered by the Congressman Byron Donalds, Representative of Southwest Florida District 19 and U.S. Army Infantry Officer and Vietnam War veteran, Dennis Battles.

Battles was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant – Infantry in June of 1969 after graduating from Wheaton College with a major in philosophy and as a Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG) in ROTC. After completing Basic then Airborne and Ranger training at Fort Benning, GA, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, NC. Six months later he was on orders to Vietnam with Jungle Warfare training (Panama) enroute.

As 1st Lieutenant-Infantry, Battles led a rifle platoon in the 1st brigade of the 101st in the I Corps region of South Vietnam just below the demilitarized zone. His combat awards include the Silver Star and two bronze stars with “V” device. After returning from Vietnam, Battles taught Platoon Tactics at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, completed the nine-month Infantry Officers’ Advanced Course, and was then assigned to Berlin Germany where he commanded a Rifle Company in the Berlin Brigade at a time when the “Wall” was very much a presence. Battles resigned from the Army as Captain in 1975.

“I’m touched each year by our guest speakers who share their personal insights as to the significance of those who served,” Bryan said. “A good many of them have stood shoulder to shoulder with somebody who may or may not have come back, or came back in a whole different state of mind or physical condition.

“(Battles) has seen (military life) from multiple different angles, and we look forward to hearing his personal reflections on the places he’s gone and the things he’s seen.”

Members of the Collier-Lee Honor Flight, Wreaths Across America, and Mission United – a United Way Program to Serve Those Who Have Served, will also participate.

Beginning at 8 a.m. on May 28, community members will have the opportunity to place flags on each of the graves of the 1,500 to 2,000 veterans resting in the cemetery.

“It’s quite a humbling sight to see the cemetery after Saturday morning’s placement,” Bryan said. “To see the thousands of flags fluttering in the breeze during those days — it’s quite touching.”

Interested participants should arrive at the location’s Colonial Family Center at that time to await further instructions.

For additional information, visit the Fort Myers Memorial Gardens website: www.fortmyersmemorial.com.

Brotherhood of Heroes Resource Center and Museum

The Brotherhood of Heroes Resource Center and Museum in Cape Coral will host a Memorial Day luncheon on Monday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office Animal Cruelty Task Force will be in attendance. The event is free to attend as takes place at their location at 4522 Del Prado Blvd.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter:@haddad_cj