A plaque in front of Azimuth Technology honors the nine members of the military with ties to Collier County who died in recent years:
Army Staff Sgt. Wentz “Baron” Shanaberger
Army Cpl. Stanley J. Lapinski
Army Cpt. Fred A. Cannan
Army Spc. Brandon Gordon
Army Sgt. Peter C. Neesley
Army Spec. Richard Burress
Marine Lance Cpl. Dennis Burrow
Marine Lance Cpl Robert John Newton
Army Sgt. Linda Pierre
The cannon salute rattled the crowd as Southwest Florida's military community slowly raised the flag in front of Azimuth Technology in East Naples.
Six months after opening its doors, the Collier County defense manufacturing company held a ceremony Saturday to dedicate its new flagpole and honor those Collier County military men and women who died in combat in recent years.
"Because we make parts for the military, we thought it would be great to honor the fallen heroes (in Collier County)," said Len Zaiser IV, president of Azimuth Technology. "For some of these people, it's been so long since they have been honored. For some of the people, their children were born and there was never a memorial."
Nine local members of the military with ties to Collier County have been killed since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Family and friends of seven of those military personnel attended the dedication ceremony Saturday morning.
Gaye Lapinski traveled from Ocala for the dedication ceremony. Lapinski's son — Army Cpl. Stanley J. Lapinski, a 35-year-old turent gunner on a Humvee — was killed in June 2005 when a roadside bomb exploded next to his convoy in Baghdad.
Lapinski said she spent the first two years after her son's death in a haze of mourning, going from memorial service to memorial services.
"I can't tell you how many people did things for us over the years," she said. "For two years, I walked around like a zombie from memorial service to memorial service."
Those services, she said, have since slowed down, but each one she attends is just as meaningful. Lapinski said she tries to attend as many of them as possible because she thinks they raise awareness to the "young men and women who are voluntarily going to serve."
Zaiser said his company is very aware of the perils servicemen and women put themselves in, and Saturday's event was just one small way his company could say thank you.
"I've got to tell you, this is the most emotional thing I've been through," Zaiser said.
But the dedication ceremony wasn't just a somber event. It also kicked off a day long open house and barbecue for employees and their family members.
Zaiser said it was important for the company to host the barbecue because it gives folks a chance to see where their loved ones spend most of their days. On Saturday the machines in the plant were running as a clown painted children's faces, a DJ played music and grill masters cooked up hot dogs in the parking lot.
"This is great," said Adam Naylor, who has been with Azimuth since May. "You can't beat it."