Several hundred Cape Coral residents and visitors - folks young and old - turned out Monday, Memorial Day, to pay tribute to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The ceremony was held in the Veteran's Honor Garden at Coral Ridge Cemetery in Cape Coral.
The common thread throughout the program - from the helicopter fly-over that preceded the ceremony to the 21 dove release and closing benediction - was remembering all the heroes who died defending our nation and protecting our freedom.
"Remember all those who died for our liberty ... let's not fail them," said Wade Fontenot, honor guard captain for V.F.W. Post 8463, the opening guest speaker.
Ron Rieser leads the V.F.W. Post 8463 Honor Guard as they post the colors during Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at Coral Ridge Cemetery.
After saying "Today we remember our forefathers," Fontenot ran down a list of the conflicts the U.S. has been involved in, from the Revolutionary War through to Iraq and Afghanistan. Pointing out that everyone has likely seen the bumper stickers and car magnets that say, "Support our Troops," he stressed that we should be "supporting our government and praying for our troops."
Vincent Cummings, a retired major from the United States Air Force Reserve, addressed the crowd singling out a few names, "four soldiers whose lives will touch your heart" - Pfc. Brandon Wadman, Pfc. Derrick Gwaltney, Army Spc. Manuel Lopez III and Capt. Dan Eggers. He relayed short descriptions of their military careers and offered some personal insight into their families, their lives and how they died in service to the country.
"The common demoninator for all these men ... they all claimed this community, the great city of Cape Coral, as their hometown," Cummings said. And while he pointed out that our nation has always remembered the veterans from the world wars, it seems those soldiers fighting today do not get the recognition they too deserve.
"They truly our our hometown heroes," Cummings said of Wadman, Gwaltney, Lopez and Eggers. "I am confident and proclaim to you that our community can and must do better to remember them," and that their stories need to be passed down from generation to generation.
Another guest speaker for the program was Dennie Clark, a recent graduate of Cape Coral High School and a member of its JROTC program. He pointed out that as a member of the VFW Color Guard, he has participated in 350 services for veterans, "each a Memorial Day," and that each was important no matter how large or how small - one service he said had only two attending, while the largest had thousands.
Following a 21-gun salute by the VFW Post 8564, the playing of taps by Bob Day, the singing of "God Bless America" by the Sun-Sations, who also sang the national anthem and "God Bless the U.S.A." earlier in the program, there was a release of 21 white doves - actually 18 white doves, which followed the release of three others - one colored red, one white and one blue, to the delight of the crowd.
Also featured in the program were Mayor John Sullivan, who led the pledge of allegiance; Pastor Tommy Rickards, who gave the invocation and closing benediction; and opening remarks by Chuck Warren of Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery.