A boat club based in Cape Coral came up with a new twist to help celebrate Wreaths Across America to honor military veterans as it participates in the ceremony for the third year Saturday, Dec. 14, in the Gulf of Mexico.
Nathaniel Bowditch Society (NBS) vice commodore Mike Gaudio wanted to do things a little differently this year. Thinking it is easy to thank veterans who served and made the ultimate sacrifice, he wanted to include actual combat exposed veterans still living in the Tribute At Sea.
"We want the city to know what we are doing and to encourage people in thanking our living heroes," said NBS member Tony Silvain. "We got eight names of ambulatory veterans in the area and five of them agreed to participate. We're going to take them out on our boats to the spot where the U.S. Coast Guard vessels anchor for the wreath-laying ceremony three or four miles out, then we'll take them all out to lunch at the Lighthouse restaurant."
Wreaths are placed in the water during the annual Tribute At Sea.
There are several combat veterans who are members of NBS who will be included in the tribute, even those unable to go by boat.
Due to government sequestration, the Coast Guard Cutter Marlin will not participate this year. Instead, there will be two other vessels at sea, a smaller Coast Guard vessel and one from the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
More than a million wreaths are used at more than 800 wreath ceremonies in cemeteries worldwide, but Southwest Florida hosts the only ceremony at sea.
A flotilla of boats will assemble near the Cape Coral Bridge and parade to the Cape Coral Yacht Club where the dignitaries, veterans and wreaths representing each branch of the Armed Services will board about 8:45 a.m. After a short ceremony at the Yacht Club, the flotilla will be escorted to the wreath-laying site by law enforcement boats representing local and federal agencies. A military flyover also is anticipated.
"NBS wants to express our gratitude while these veterans are still alive, because there are fewer of them every year," said Silvain.