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Remembering those who serve

Memorial Day tributes include Cape Coral, Fort Myers ceremonies

By CJ HADDAD - | May 24, 2024

Each and every year, Americans pay tribute to fallen military members on Memorial Day — a time to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for our country.

In the veteran-rich community of Southwest Florida, and Cape Coral being a Purple Heart City, residents have a myriad of opportunities over the holiday weekend to pay their respects and honor those who 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 who have lost their life while serving in the U.S. Military since 1868.

Events include:

Coral Ridge

Coral Ridge Funeral Home & Cemetery in Cape Coral will host its 43rd 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.

“Our veterans and their families are extremely important to us,” said Coral Ridge Location Manager Alyse Bollheimer. “It’s an honor to serve our community in that respect. We have lots of different programs that serve veterans, and seminars we take part in. We have a lot of service members and family members of veterans on our staff, so it’s something that we hold near and dear to our hearts.”

The service will bring community leaders and veterans organizations together to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and read a Proclamation from the city. Special guests will include the Gold Star parents and families, individuals who have lost a child or sibling while serving. A “Roll Call” of deceased veterans will be read by U.S. Army veteran Jorge Bracero. Guest Speakers include Lt. Col. Harvey Rocha and Col. Robert Douglas.

Additional activities will include the opportunity for family members to take a rubbing of their loved ones’ names on the Honor Wall; a Memorial Wreath presentation; a ceremonial fly-over by Lee County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit; and a Motorcycle Ride-In by the American Legion and Patriot Guard Riders. The Harney Point VFW 8463, American Legion Post 90 and Post 136, Vietnam Veterans of America Firebase Chapter 594, Combat Infantrymen’s Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Knights of Columbus Assembly 2115, Cape Coral Fire Department, and Cape Coral Police Department will also participate.

“It’s amazing seeing the support from the community and the number of people that come out each year,” Bollheimer said. “We hope the families who join us for the 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.”

Roughly 2,700 veterans are buried at Coral Ridge.

“It’s such a moving, beautiful ceremony,” Bollheimer added. “Being out there in our veterans area, it kinds of brings it all to reality.”

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 27, at 1589 Colonial Blvd.

“This is the most important event of the year to us,” said Holly Donahue, Memorial Gardens managing partner of operations. “It is definitely our biggest event of the year. Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. By hosting this event, we ensure that their memory lives on and that their contributions are never forgotten.”

A welcome address will be delivered by Graham A. Stein, with the processional performed by Guns ‘N Hoses Pipes ‘N Drums of Southwest Florida. Presentation of the colors will be performed by Harney Point VFW Post 8463. The national anthem is to be sung by Tina Fiorino.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s Southwest Florida Regional Director, London Rotundo, will be the keynote address speaker.

A wreath placement ceremony will also take place to honor specific individuals who served. This year’s wreaths will be placed on the graves of Cpl. Samual M. Sampler, a Medal of Honor recipient from World War I; and Marine PFC Paul Ison. Harney Point VFW will also place wreaths in honor of Navy and Air Force veterans.

“For anyone who is a patriot, for anyone who has this kind of regard for our veteran community, it’s extremely important, not just to us, but to the entire community,” Donahue said. “We invite everyone to this.”

Beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, community members will have the opportunity to place flags on each of the graves of the many veterans resting in the cemetery. Interested participants should arrive at the location’s Colonial Family Center at that time to await further instructions.

“It’s beautiful to see,” Donahue said of the thousands of flags that will be placed. “We just want people to remember the sacrifices made. We live in a world with a lot of questions. We just don’t ever want to forget our veterans and their sacrifices, and want them to know they matter to us. Our annual event is pivotal in bringing together members of the community toward this common goal of respect and reverence for all of the veterans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Their presence underscores the unity of purpose in honoring those who served.”

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

American Legion

American Legion Post 90 in Cape Coral invites the public to join them for a Memorial Day “Remember and Honor” ceremony at noon on Monday, May 27. After the ceremony free hot dogs and hamburgers will be served.

“Memorial Day is one of the special days when the Post is open to the public without the necessity of being a member’s guest,” officials stated. To be held at 1401 S.E. 47th St. in Cape Coral, the ceremony will include a remembrance of all veterans and a 21-gun salute. Post 90 encourages attendees to bring the whole family, as children can enjoy the ceremony as well. Families with active-duty military or veterans are especially encouraged to join. When the formal ceremony is concluded a free lunch will be served to all.

“This is a great opportunity to learn more about the American Legion and the important work we do to support our community,” officials stated.

Additional information is available at post90swf.org or by visiting its Facebook page.

German American Social Club

The German American Social Club of Cape Coral invites the Southwest Florida community to an All-American Country BBQ this Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, which will focus on the grassroots food and patriotic music that distinguishes the United States throughout the world. Given the nature of the holiday, members of the club will honor those who have died in the nation’s wars, paying tribute to U.S. armed forces members as well as honoring veterans from within the club.

The event will be held in the Bavarian Gardens on the grounds of the German American Social Club on Pine Island Road. Beginning at noon, the barbecue festivities will be offered to members and the public until 8 p.m., and will feature a variety of barbecue fare, including hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue chicken, bratwursts, and more.

There will be music throughout the afternoon, featuring Dustin St. One and Ed Feehan and the Pure Country Band from 2:30 to 5:30.

The American Legion Post 90 Cape Coral will provide an Honor Guard and Quilts of Valor, which will be presented to two of the club’s members at around 2 p.m.

“There’s plenty to look forward to as the community has the opportunity to sit in the shaded gardens with friends and family,” GASC officials stated. Tickets are $5 and parking is free. Admission is free to active military and veterans with ID as well as to children 12 and younger.

President Erich Kohl and his team “are proud to be able to open up to everyone in Cape Coral and beyond so that we can celebrate who we are — a strong nation–Southwest Florida strong.”

The German American Social Club is at 2101 Southwest Pine Island Road.

Sun Splash Family Waterpark

Sun Splash Family Waterpark will provide free Military Admission throughout the weekend (May 25-27), as a courtesy to all of the men and women who have served and continue to serve their country in the armed forces.

“As a thank you to all of the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country in the armed forces, we’re glad to honor them this Memorial Day Weekend with free admission,” stated SunSplash General Manager Eric Reed.

A valid Military ID is required at the ticket booth.

Memorial Weekend is also the official kick off to summer. Daily summer hours of operation will begin on May 24.

For more information on hours, season passes, admission rates, birthday parties, upcoming events, and directions to the park, visit SunSplashWaterpark.com.

SunSplash is at 500 W. Lake Kennedy Drive.

Gulf Coast Town Center

On Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. in the courtyard, Gulf Coast Town Center in Fort Myers will host a Memorial Day ceremony to honor those who have lost their lives for their country.

The event will feature live performances by Big Cypress Band and Hot Flashz.

The event benefits the Southwest Florida Military Museum, an organization that seeks to preserve and showcase the military history of the nation.

“You can help us honor our heroes in more ways than one, simply by attending this special event,” organizers stated. Attendees are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs, as seating is limited.

Bonita Springs

The city of Bonita Springs will host a Memorial Day Service this Monday starting at 9 a.m. at the Downtown Riverside Park, located at 10450 Reynolds St.

The guest speaker will be retired Commander 8th Air Force and Joint Commander for Space and Global Strike, Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder.

For questions, call 239-949-6262.