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‘Greatest Generation’ veterans to be honored at Spirit of ‘45 dinner

By CJ HADDAD - | Jun 21, 2021


A remembrance and honoring of the “Greatest Generation” takes place this August in Fort Myers, and organizers are looking for additional World War II veterans to salute.

Observed each year on Aug. 14 and celebrated the second weekend of that month, Spirit of ’45 Day is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Aug. 14, 1945, the day President Harry Truman announced the war was over.

Spirit of ’45 Lee County Chair Eryka Aptaker created the local take on this nationwide initiative after a networking event in Naples over a decade ago when she heard someone speak on the Spirit of ’45. She immediately wanted to join forces.

Year after year, the event grew until last year’s pandemic halted the celebration. Aptaker said this year might just be the last year for the local Spirit of ’45 due to dwindling numbers of veterans who served more than 75 years ago. In prior years, Aptaker was able to host large celebrations with nearly 100 World War II vets.

“There’s a very good chance this year will be the last year,” she said. “It’s not that I don’t want to do this anymore, it’s just becoming more difficult to bring in veterans who are feeling up to coming to this event. Many have unfortunately passed.

“This year will be in honor of the 75th and 76th anniversaries. Last year was supposed to be a huge celebration. It’s been challenging coming out of this pandemic. If this is going to be the last year, I really want to honor them in the best way possible.”

She is hopeful that any area World War II veterans that have not attended the event in past years, as well as previous participants, will take part in what many call a moving ceremony.

“The World War II veterans fought a horrific war so that future generations could have a better life,” Aptaker said. “With all the turmoil going on in the world, it makes me sad to think that their legacy is being forgotten; everything they fought for is falling to the wayside. Please don’t let their memory slip away. Help me honor these wonderful men and women.”

The 2021 Lee County Spirit of ’45 will be held from 4:15-7:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, at Sanibel Harbour Marriot Resort, 17260 Harbour Pointe Drive in Fort Myers. The event is free for World War II veterans and spouses of the same generation only. Tickets are $30 per person for all other attendees.

Reservations must be made by Aug. 1, and tickets must be paid by Aug. 4.

Dinner will be served from 4:15-5:45 p.m., followed by a World War II veteran tribute and ceremony from 5:45-7:15 p.m.

The ceremony will include presentation of colors, Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem; POW/MIA service (missing man table), wreath ceremony; World War II veteran guest speakers; flag folding ceremony; pipes and drums to include “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes; honor guard/firing party for three volleys; echo taps and closing speech with patriotic song.

Sponsorships are what make this event possible, and Aptaker is seeking assistance to ensure the event can take place.

There are two different sponsorship opportunities — business sponsorships that range from $50 to $1,000, or “Sponsor-A-Vet,” for $25.

The business sponsorship provides advertising opportunities in the program, as well as tickets to the dinner and ceremony.

The “Sponsor-A-Vet” program will cover the cost of a veteran’s meal. The sponsor’s name, or the name of a veteran, then will be listed in the program.

Those interested in sponsorship or reservations can call Aptaker at 917-607-4385 or email her at eja3090@comcast.net.

– Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj