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Honoring Our Fallen

Many opportunities to pay respects to those that put it all on the line in name of freedom, national security and independence

By CJ HADDAD - | May 25, 2023

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, 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.

Events include:

Coral Ridge

Coral Ridge Funeral Home & Cemetery in Cape Coral will host its 42nd 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 veterans organizations together to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. American Legion Post 136 St. James City and Knights of Columbus Assembly 2115 Cape Coral, will serve as Honor and Color Guard; Cape Coral Fire Department with two Crossed Aerial Ladders flying the American Flag as a backdrop; 1SG Juan Cordero, USA (R), will serve as the chaplain; Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and read a Proclamation.

Special guests will include the Gold Star Parents and Families; these are individuals who have lost an immediate relative while serving. Ann Marie Babos, daughter of a World War II Army veteran, will perform patriotic songs. A “Roll Call” of deceased veterans will be read by Warren.

Honored participants include: J. (Mick) Sheldrake Senior Chief USN (R); Mike Giallombardo, Florida House District 79, Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran, Chief Warrant Officer in the Florida National Guard; Margaret and Bill Eggers, Gold Star Parents; SGT Michael Lipari, USA (R).

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 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 Scout of America Troop, Cub Scout Pack, Cape Coral Fire Department, Cape Coral Police Department, and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, will also participate. Warren will speak on the need to honor and provide services for our homeless veterans.

“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.”

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, at 1589 Colonial Blvd.

The ceremony will include military aircraft fly over, participation from the Guns N Hoses Pipes and Drum Corps of SW FL, Harney Point VFW Post 8463 of Cape Coral, with the keynote addresses delivered by 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 Saturday, May 27, 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.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our community to come together to acknowledge our local and national heroes and honor the sacred resting places of our veteran community,” Memorial Gardens officials stated. “Together, we will recognize and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to ensure our freedom.”

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 29. 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.

Guests can also bring a dish to share if they wish. 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 Cape Coral’s own Boots Band from 3:30 to 6:30.

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 2:30 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.

The event is being supported by the Insurance Busters group which has been helping Cape Coral residents recover losses incurred after Hurricane Ian last September.

Gulf Coast Town Center

On Monday from noon until 2 p.m., 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 Electric Lipstick and Hot Flash.

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.

Sun Splash Family Waterpark

Sun Splash Family Waterpark will provide free Military Admission on Monday, May 29, as a thank you to all of the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country in the armed forces.

“Memorial Day is a time to honor all those who have served for our country and remembrance of their sacrifice,” stated Sun Splash General Manager Eric Reed. “We are glad to take this day and thank all armed forces.”

Active and retired military and veterans will receive a free one-day admission on May 29 when they show a valid Military ID at the ticket booth.

Memorial Weekend is also the official kick off to summer. Sun Splash will be open daily for the holiday weekend from Thursday, May 25, through May 29. Daily summer hours of operation will begin on May 31.

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