For over 30 years the members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) on Marco Island have conducted both Memorial Day and Veterans Day Ceremonies for those wishing to attend. The VFW members who have participated in these Ceremonies are veterans who served in World War II to the most recent foreign wars. For the past 15 years our local community has provided assistance in these programs. One such group is the Strummers, a group of retired professionals such as Doctors and accountants who have provided the music for both Ceremonies.
The local VFW does not include politicians or others with an agenda other than honoring the Vets or remembering those fallen in battle. The Ceremonies have kept with a narrow program that has little changed from year to year so that the Ceremonies were predictable to those who regularly attend.
The VFW earlier Ceremonies were performed at the Marco Island Cemetery until such time the Veterans Park was completed.
The VFW organization has provided $20,000, not including personal donations to get the Ceremonies at Veterans Community Park started. We were told by the City we could use the Veterans Park for our two yearly Ceremonies. For the one time opening Ceremony of the new Veterans Community Park an agreement was made by the local VFW and the City to have the Local VFW Ceremony first, followed by the city program. The local VFW made arrangements for an F16 flyover and Major General James Guest as the guest speaker.
Within the past few years another veterans group, the American Legion, was formed as a result of a disagreement with the District VFW. The American Legion was welcomed by the community since some veterans did not qualify for membership in the local VFW. The American Legion is a welcomed organization for our community they additionally are providing activities for its members
The City Manager at the time asked that the local VFW and American Legion work together on the two ceremonies. That City Manager was notified by me that we would work it out and the VFW agreed to continue with the Memorial Day Ceremony and the American Legion would conduct the Veterans Day Ceremony. This was not challenged when discussed it at our VFW meeting with some of the American Legion officers present. This seemed to be appropriate due to Veterans Day honoring all Veterans and Memorial Day just those fallen in battle.
For the Memorial Day Ceremonies, the local VFW had agreed to include and recognize the veterans in the American Legion along with, but equally important groups such as the Coast Guard, Civil Air patrol, Police and Fire, Boy Scouts and others that had been included in past ceremonies. We hope, and in fact have been informed that the American Legion would do the same. The local VFW has also taken the responsibility to put flags along Collier on both of these programs for over 20 years and most recently with the help of some American Legion members.
It was relayed to us that the City was dissatisfied with the last Memorial Day Ceremony conducted by the VFW and wanted to change the arrangement by appointing a facilitator, (a non city employee) to combine the ceremonies. This was never relayed to the VFW members. I personally was out of town and had little to do in last Memorial Day program. I had heard from only a few who conveyed their disappointment of the Ceremony and that included mostly the ones that wanted to make the change to our traditional VFW ceremony.
It is my belief those attending the Memorial Ceremony are there to pay their respect and not necessarily to be entertained. The members performing this ceremony are the VFW members and many over 80 years of age. I can accept if one might be out of step or mispronounce a word. I believe those attending can forgive these errors but understand that they and those attending are paying tribute to their fallen comrade of arms.
We also believe that Memorial Day can be very hot and would like to keep our ceremony as short as possible and to the point.
We do, however, appreciate the help the City has provided including tents and chairs as they have in the past. We hope this doesn’t result in our program being taken over and controlled by other than our VFW members for this once a year event.
We also wish this special event, with heartfelt meaning not be taken away from this patriotic group of local VFW Veterans, as long as they want to perform this, to memorialize and remember those that have fought and died for our great country. God Bless the USA.
Jim Lang Marco Island