Roughly 40 World War II veterans will be honored on Fort Myers Beach as part of a nationwide celebration on Sunday, Aug. 14.
The Beach's inaugural "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive" event, which is observed throughout the country for the day World War II ended in 1945, will honor those distinguished members of the armed services with a "Taps Over the Water" ceremony at Crescent Beach Family Park.
Before the park event, Pincher's Crab Shack at 18100 San Carlos Blvd. will be offer free dinners to the World War II veterans from 2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. At 4:45, Town of Fort Myers Beach transport vans will provide transportation to the vets from Pincher's to Crescent Beach Family Park. Rolling Thunder and Moose Riders will escort the vans.
The park event begins at 3:30 p.m. with 1940s and 1950s music being played by Dave Hall. VFW Post 10097 will provide the PA system for the music. When the WWII veterans arrive, local Boy Scouts and The Angels will seat them.
At 5:45 p.m., the Color Guard and Bag Pipers will march into the park and FMB Mayor Larry Kiker, the master of ceremonies, will welcome everyone to the event. He then will call on Commander of American Legion Post 274 Mike Adcock, who will introduce Chaplin Bob Gleisle for opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. Beach Manager Terry Stewart will then be introduced to sing "The Star Spangled Banner."
At 6:15 p.m., Kiker will read the U.S Congress Proclamation Letter (which states the event will be held on the second Sunday of November every year) and introduce Ret. Col. Thomas Hutchinson to present the Bronze Star to James R. Matlock.
Beach Councilman Joe Kosinski, one of the event coordinators along with Bob Enger and Eryka Appaker, will speak on the significance of the Laying of Wreath ceremony being performed by the US Coast Guard officials and escorted by "Wreaths Across America" Flotilla, which will take the wreath out to sea. A fly-over performed by the Lee County Sheriff's Office with the help from the Beach Fire & Rescue Department follows with an aerial Salute to the American Flag.
Adcock then will give a command for a 21-gun salute, and the Bonita Springs (American Legion) Post 303 will play "Taps." Stewart will lead everyone in a rendition of "God Bless America." Kosinski will make closing remarks to bring the ceremony to an end.
"We're very excited (to put this event on)," said Kosinski, an Army veteran. "We've had everybody pitch in and help out with this event, including Lee County Parks & Recreation, the Town of Fort Myers Beach and eight veterans organizations that will participate. We are looking at this to be an annual event and make it a success."
There is no assigned parking area at Crescent Beach Family Park, so anyone interested in attending the ceremony may consider parking their vehicles at a park-n-ride and taking the trolley.
"The idea is to keep the spirit alive for the younger generation and ongoing for future generations," said Vernie Kosinski, Joe's wife. "It's so important to 'Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive' for educational reasons and for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country."
Vernie is extending the invitation out to any World War II veteran who may not know about the event. Some may reside at Shell Point Retirement Community or other nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
More than 400,000 Americans gave their lives in service to their country during World War II.
According to the website, www.spiritof45.org , "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive" is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative to preserve the legacy of the men and women of the Greatest Generation so that their example of courage, self-sacrifice, 'can-do' attitude and commitment to community can help inspire a renewal of national unity in America at a time when our country once again must come together to meet historic challenges."
Its goal and initiative is "to establish an annual day of remembrance and national renewal to remind America of the values and accomplishments of the generation who endured the hard times of the Great Depression, fought to defeat the greatest tyranny in history, and then went on to rebuild their shattered world in an unprecedented effort to help assure a better future for both friend and former foe alike."
The 2011 national event is celebrating its 66th year.