Taking a moment for America

As the air grew chilly and the sun began to dip behind the restaurants and retail stores lining Fifth Avenue South on Sunday in Naples, a crowd of about 50 waited expectantly for the tribute they came to witness.

 Kathryn Kurgis, 8, hands out miniature flags to people in the courtyard of Sugden Community Theatre on Fifth Avenue South before the start of the 'Naples Patriotic Moment' on Sunday.

Photo by Cary Edmondson

Kathryn Kurgis, 8, hands out miniature flags to people in the courtyard of Sugden Community Theatre on Fifth Avenue South before the start of the "Naples Patriotic Moment" on Sunday.

After a rousing selection of big band songs from the 1930s and '40s, a lone trumpeter with the Gulf Coast Big Band stepped forward for the big moment. The sun tucked away for the evening, lulled into hiding by the sound of "Taps" being played in the Sugden Community Theatre courtyard.

The crowd, which consisted of aging military veterans and residents of all ages, stood silently, watching proud soldiers slide the American flag down from its poll and tuck it neatly away for safekeeping.

Sunday's ceremony was the first of what organizers hope will become a tradition of "Naples Patriotic Moments." Visitors are invited to gather in the courtyard of the theater every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday until April 11 to honor members of all military branches during different theme nights.

The patriotic moment conducted Sunday was to honor all veterans of foreign wars. Today's moment will be dedicated to honoring black men and women in the military, in conjunction with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"I just feel people needed a chance to get together and think of the different levels of military over the years," said Sharon Kurgis, a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch who organized the event.

"I just think we need to take some time and remember the sacrifices men have made and women have made over the years."

The Gulf Coast Big Band kicked off the festivities by playing a medley of military songs, representing the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines. While the sun made its slow departure, they entertained the crowd with more music, inviting couples to dance in the courtyard.

The group gathered together to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and ended the festivities with the singing of "God Bless America."

"It was kind of nice," said Naples resident Larry Muse, 80. "My wife read about it in the newspaper, and said, 'We have to go to this.'"

"We came to support the military, both active and inactive members," said Tyme Rogers, 39, with his wife, Dawn. "It's a good reminder of the sacrifices made for freedom, and of the guys who are still over there."

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