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For the first time, the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Community Park will be a truly blended affair on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

It will involve all four of Marco Island’s military organizations. Marco American Legion Post 404, VFW Post 6370, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary flotilla and Civil Air Patrol squadron will each play a role in honoring America’s service men and women.

But students salute the vets early -- on Friday, Nov. 6.

Students at Tommie Barfield Elementary School will honor the vets with speeches and song at 1:30 p.m. on Friday at the school. All are invited to attend. For more information, call Sandy Hurley at 377-8500.

Meanwhile on Veterans Day Nov. 11, members of the four organizations will also comprise a color guard bearing the flags of the four branches of the military. They will be joined by members of Marco’s Boy Scout Troop 234, who will carry their organization’s banner, while the American flag will be carried by members of the city’s police and fire-rescue departments.

Set for 11 a.m. on 11/11, the ceremony will also include a three-plane flyover at the conclusion of the National Anthem, to be sung by Rose Kramer of Marco. The flyover is new this year and the vintage World War II aircraft will be piloted by members of the Civil Air Patrol squadron.

Civilian Keith Dameron will serve as master of ceremonies in the light of his involvement with the Veterans Memorial Fundraising Committee and the Big Flag Committee.

The keynote speaker will be Naples resident Capt. Wayne Smith, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who survived five years at North Vietnam’s infamous Hanoi Hilton POW camp in North Vietnam, where U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, was also being held.

Post 404 Commander Lee Rubenstein and Bill Horton, the post’s first vice-commander, will conduct the American Legion’s POW/MIA ceremony, and VFW Post 6370 Commander Dave Gardner will announce all the names of Marco Island veterans who have passed away over the last two years. The fire-rescue department will have a large bell next to the rostrum that will be struck each time a name is read.

Rubenstein will also present each WWII veteran attending the ceremony with a small, sealed glass vial of sand from Omaha Beach that he obtained this summer while visiting Normandy.

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