Paying tribute: Marco Island honors fallen military for Memorial Day

Lance Shearer

Marco Island has a lot of veterans who went to war and came home. On Monday, many of them, plus families and patriotic citizens, came together to remember those who went to war and didn’t come home.

On a warm May morning, hundreds gathered at Veterans Community Park for the annual Memorial Day observance, to pay tribute to those who could not attend, the soldiers and sailors who died fighting for their country. The flags flying at half-staff barely rippled in the light air. Additional flags were carried by members of the police and veterans’ color guards, all of the Stars and Stripes emblematic of the flags that drape the coffins of fallen military personnel.

Don Mills, incoming commander of Marco Island’s VFW Post 6370, welcomed the guests, and volunteers. Gavin Lang, 12, grandson of former commander Jim Lang, distributed poppies, a traditional remembrance of war dead dating back to World War I and the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915. The story of the poppies was told in more detail by VFW member and retired captain Ray Yerich, after a series of commemorations including Presentation of the Colors, the National Anthem sung by Tica Barrett, an invocation by Rev. Kevin Koenig, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a flyover salute by the Marco Island Civil Air Patrol.

The main memorial address came from outgoing VFW commander Tom Meeker, who spoke for about five minutes. Liberty, he said, “is purchased on the installment plan,” with the blank checks each successive group of military inductees essentially writes to his country.

“Some veterans returned to live out their lives, some fallen soldiers returned draped with the flag, and some rest in foreign lands under the flag.”

If America is “a shining city on the hill,” he said, “the soldier is the lightkeeper.”

There were musical numbers including “Some Gave All” by Greg Barrett, and an echoing trumpet duet on “Taps” by Renald Richard and Craig Greusel.

The “Greatest Generation” World War II veterans were singled out for special recognition, and one of them, Herb Savage, joined his wife Emily and Greusel in his trademark rendition of “God Bless America,” before a benediction from Father Tim Navin of San Marco Catholic Church and closing remarks by Mills.