In Naples, the largest Memorial Day observance takes place at Naples Memorial Gardens on Bluebill Avenue. This year's theme is "Wounded Warriors," said Bernadette LaPaglia, one of the organizers.
"So few people understand the plight of the wounded warrior," she said.
With modern medical technology, plus sitting field hospitals as close as possible to where the casualties happen, fewer soldiers are killed in today's U.S. military, but many who would have died in previous conflicts come home alive, but with grave injuries, said Jim Elson. A former captain in the Army, Elson serves as president of the Collier County Veterans Council.
"There are two types of fallen warriors," he said, "those that died in battle, and those who carry the battle with them every day. You can't see that much death and destruction and walk away and say 'that's okay.' "
The keynote speech at the Naples Memorial Gardens commemoration will be delivered by wounded veteran Bobby Joseph. A 2001 graduate of Naples High School, he joined the Marines after 9/11, and was caught in the explosion of an IED, or roadside bomb. He will speak on the topic, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine."
Another highlight will be a showing of the award-winning documentary film "Warrior Champions: From Baghdad to Beijing," following the efforts of wounded soldiers to compete in the para-Olympics. The event begins at 9:40 a.m. with a musical prelude by the Pine Ridge Middle School band, with the actual ceremony beginning at 10 a.m.
Additional events around Memorial Day in Naples include the Judicata 5K Run at North Collier Regional Park, with the starting gun scheduled for 7:30 a.m., and "Memorial Day in the Garden," the first event in a summer picnic and concert series taking place at Naples Botanical Garden. The concert, free for Botanical Garden members and with regular admission for non-members, features the three-piece "jam band" Orange Juice, playing pop, reggae, rock and "feel-good" music on the Water Garden Performing Stage.
In addition, at Sun-N-Fun Lagoon, Collier County's water park, Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer vacation season and the beginning of Sun-N-Fun Lagoon's summer hours. Beginning May 28, the water park will be open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In honor of the occasion, admission to Sun-N-Fun Lagoon will be discounted on Memorial Day – $8 for visitors 48 inches and taller; $4.50 for visitors under 48 inches tall.
In Bonita Springs, where a monument honoring veterans is under construction, with completion expected in time for a Veterans Day unveiling, the Memorial Day commemoration takes place at Riverside Park, with a scheduled start at 9 a.m. The park includes a Veterans' Walkway, with bricks inscribed to honor servicemen and women.
For the Memorial Day observation, the Stars and Stripes will fly in the Isle of Flags, with burial flags, each dedicated to the memory of a deceased veteran, donated by their families. Hosted by Dave Grossi of the Veterans Advisory Council, Adam Prenkti, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Commander of American Legion Post 303, will speak, as will fellow veteran Scott Cline, Commander of Bonita's VFW Post 4254. Their organizations will perform "Taps" and a rifle salute. Along with a musical tribute by Colton James, Fred Davidson will sing the National Anthem.
On Marco Island, this Memorial Day marks the first since completion of the Veterans' Memorial at Veterans' Community Park, which will host the gathering, set for 11 a.m. Groups including the police and fire departments, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Boy Scouts of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars will be represented, said Jim Lang, Commander of VFW Post 6370. The Civil Air Patrol will provide a flyover. Music will be courtesy of the Marco Island Strummers, including a double-bugle rendition of "Taps."
Monday will also see the dedication of the "Big Flag" at the foot of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge on the Marco side. The 18-by-12-foot Old Glory will rise to the top of a 50-foot pole, in a dedication ceremony scheduled for 3 p.m. in front of the Marco Island Yacht Club. Attendees to both events are invited to bring folding chairs. Volunteers will be out at 7 a.m. distributing over 1,000 miniature flags along Collier Boulevard.