Welcome Home! to Vietnam Era Veterans will be the theme of the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Community Park, which for the first time will be sponsored by the City of Marco Island.
Set for 11 AM, November 11, the ceremony honoring America’s service men and women will include a Tribute to Vietnam Era Veterans highlighted by:
- A Welcome Home!to Vietnam era veterans by Joe Batte, a Marco Island City councilman and a Vietnam-era, Marine Corps vet.
- Bob Brown, chairman of Marco City Council, reading a Welcome Home! proclamation that will be presented to each Vietnam-era veteran at the ceremony.
- An opening prayer by WWII veteran Chuck Purple, a member of the city’s VFW and American Legion posts, and a closing prayer by Vietnam era vet Mike Stapleton, chaplain for American Legion Post #404, Marco Island.
- A POW-MIA ceremony led by Lee Rubenstein, commander of American Legion Post #404, and the post’s vice-commander, Bill Horton.
- Tributes by State Sen.-elect Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala.
- Tom Meeker, commander of VFW Post #6370, Marco Island, reading the names of Marco veterans who have passed away over the last year.
As with last year, the ceremony will be a blended affair involving all four of the island’s military organizations: American Legion Post 404, VFW Post 6370, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla #95 and Marco’s Civil Air Patrol squadron. Representatives of each organization will comprise a color guard bearing the flags of the four military groups, while the American flag will be carried by members of the city’s police and fire-rescue departments.
The ceremony will also include:
- The Pledge of Allegiance led by Girl Scout Troop 331 of Marco Island.
- The National Anthem sung by Rose Kramer, of Marco Island, followed by a fly-over by Mic Thorenston of the Civil Air Patrol squadron in his 1950s-era plane.
- Keith Dameron, a vice president and business development officer for IBERIABANK, serving as master of ceremonies.
- Patriotic music provided by DJ Steve Reynolds and the playing of “Taps” by Greg Gruesel of Marco Island Lutheran Church.
- A special, covered seating area for all veterans and special VIP seating for the Vietnam-era vets and their spouses.
For the first time, the city will cover the cost for renting the tents and chairs that will be used for the ceremony, which, in the past, had been funded by the island’s veterans groups through public donations.
“When a veterans’ event is held in a city park, it is common for the host city to sponsor Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies,” said Roger Hernstadt, Marco Island’s city manager.
Rubenstein, a Vietnam-era veteran, said that with the ceremonies being held at Veterans Community Park, “it was only fitting that the city would play a key role in support of the programs.
“I think it gives more credibility to both Veterans Day and Memorial Day that the City of Marco Island supports the veterans, to ensure that a quality program is put on,” he added.
WW II veterans were honored at the 2015 Veterans Day ceremony. This year’s event will honor the sacrifices of vets who served from April of 1961 to Aug. of 1975, the federal government’s time frame for the Vietnam conflict.
“Personally, as a commander of the American Legion Post, I’ve always felt that Vietnam-era veterans have never officially been welcomed home,” said Rubenstein. “In fact, it was just the opposite. The American people didn’t show much appreciation to these men and women for their service. This shows that the City of Marco Island wants to thank and officially welcome home the Vietnam-era veterans in the community, even though it’s 50 years later.”
A large crowd is expected, so please arrive early. Veterans Community Park is located at 901 Park Ave.