Paying tribute: Marco Island honors fallen military for Memorial Day

Island VFW announces disbanding

Lance Shearer

Perhaps the most notable thing about Marco Island’s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday is that it happened at all. With slashing rains before and after the ceremony, during the observance a brisk wind blew the service flags flying over Veterans’ Memorial Park out horizontal, as gray clouds scudded overhead.

An MIPD honor guard presents the Colors. The VFW hosted the Memorial Day observances 11 a.m. Monday at Veterans' Community Park on a windblown Marco Island.

The second most noticeable feature was the announcement by master of ceremonies and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6370 Commander Don Mills at the end of the ceremony that this would be the last Memorial Day celebration hosted by the VFW.

“Our organization is being disbanded,” he said to the crowd, clarifying later that only the Marco Island chapter or post, not the entire VFW, is being shuttered. “It’s tragic we have to disband – just an administrative thing,” he said.

Up to that point, the commemoration followed the time-honored sequence of events from previous years, with patriotic music by the Marco Island Strummers before and during, and honor guards from the MIPD and four service organizations combining for the Presentation of the Colors. For the Pledge of Allegiance, mills was joined by members of Cub Scout Pack 234 and Boy Scout Troop 234.

Ray Yerich told the story of how poppies came to be associated with Memorial Day, and recited the poem “In Flanders Fields.” County Commissioner Donna Fiala made what are probably her briefest remarks on record, limiting herself to about two sentences, one of which was, “it does my heart good to see so many of you out here on a windy, soggy day.” Military veterans stood as their particular service anthem was played.

The ceremony closed with an echoed “Taps” played by trumpeters Craig Greusel, who also sang the National Anthem, and Renald Richards of the Marco Island Strummers. Greusel added his voice to the familiar rendition of “God Bless America,” performed as always by Emily and Col. Herb Savage, USA ret’d., now 99 years old but still fitting into his dress uniform.

Mills discarded his prepared remarks, which, he said, had been provided by the VFW, and spoke from the heart about the sacrifice of so many soldiers who never got the chance to become veterans.

“They had dreams, like all of us,” but those dreams remained unfulfilled for the ones who died.

“All the songs that were never written, all the scientific breakthroughs that never happened” haunt him, said Mills, but “the most haunting is how many sons and daughters were never born. Many had their lives taken away in an instant,” while many lingered and suffered before dying.

Mills remembered that, before it became known as World War I, the conflict was called “the war to end wars,” a prophecy that quickly unraveled, but said the one million, eight hundred thousand Americans who had died in wars made it imperative for those of us still living to find a way to resolve disputes without killing each other.

“We must respect others, even if they disagree with us,” he said, as good a message as any to take from a day dedicated to remembering those who lost their lives fighting when disputes were resolved by war.