This Saturday at noon, in more than 800 sites across the United States and in foreign lands, a full minute of silence will be observed, and veterans will be honored by land and sea.
The event is called Wreaths Across America Day, and it will be observed in Cape Coral in several ceremonies, including one at the Cape Coral Yacht Club and one three miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.
A host of members of the boating community will participate here to honor veterans lost or buried at sea as part of the annual commemoration.
Law enforcement (police and fire), Marine Divisions, the United States Coast Guard, USCG Auxiliary, SeaTow, TowBoat US, several boat clubs and other boaters will be part of the event. MarineMax has also volunteered again this year to be one of the escort vessels.
Mayor John Sullivan will be participating as well, along with the Fort Myers Beach Mayor Bob Raymond and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, and Councilman of Tom Leonardi from Fort Myers.
Local charter boat Capt. Pat McCarn of Rainbows Memorials at Sea brought the event to the Cape. He quotes Calvin Coolidge: "The nation which forgets its defenders will soon be forgotten."
He became involved through his business, which takes many out to scatter ashes of loved ones at sea.
He explained how the event came about.
"It's been going on for about 20 years, we've been affiliated for the last four years. A gentleman named Morrill Worcester of the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine started it as the Arlington Project - taking 10,000 wreaths to Arlington Cemetery, honoring veterans that have earned us the freedoms we have today."
This year, it is projected that over 400,000 wreaths will be placed nationwide, by over 150,000 volunteers as part of the Wreaths Across America mission "to Remember, Honor, and Teach."
Sites will include cemeteries, memorials and monuments, and the Cape was the first to join the non-profit with extending that to the sea.
"We take a lot of veterans out, and we noted that the veterans buried at sea weren't mentioned and we wanted to do do something about that," he said, so he contacted the organization. "We're designated as the first floating location by the Wreaths Across America."
He and his wife Nancy spearhead the activities.
"It started at 20 boats and 40 people here; this year there are closer to 40 boats and more than 180 participating," he said.
The boating public is invited to participate. If interested or for more information, he welcomes calls.
The local Wreaths Across America ceremony -- Operation: Tribute at Sea - will be held on Saturday, Dec. 15, starting at 9 a.m. from the Veterans Memorial Bridge on the Caloosahatchee River and ending in the Gulf of Mexico.
"It is an honor to have this ceremony starting in Cape Coral," he said.
A significant part of the ceremony is seven symbolic wreaths. The organization sends seven to each location, but the ones to be used at sea are special, he said - biodegradable.
The wreaths are being decorated by SuEllen Hobel of SuEllen's Floral in memory of her father Joseph Fabrinni. The wreaths will be adorned with poinsettias and red/white/blue mums for the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and POW/MIA.
The wreaths will be escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders, Cape Coral Police and Fire Departments to the Cape Coral Yacht Club dock for a presentation ceremony at approximately 9:45 a.m.
The general public is encouraged to attend.
They will then be presented to the chaplain on board Capt. McCarn's vessel by representatives from the military and will be escorted down the Caloosahatchee River with the final destination in the Gulf of Mexico.
"All ceremonies across the United States start at noon, with a full minute of silence," he said. "Fort Myers Memorial Gardens is also a location and will have their ceremony starting at noon as well."
For information, call Capt. McCarn at 673-8749.