Residents at the first "high rise" on Fort Myers Beach celebrated Independence Day one day early with a flag-raising ceremony to showcase a recently installed new flag pole and commemorate veterans.
World War II veteran Clyde Sullivan and Vietnam veteran George Dzyacky, who both reside at Privateer Condominium at 6500 Estero Blvd., led a small group of residents and guests in the patriotic event. Three members of the Veterans Club of America at 16701 San Carlos Blvd. served as the honor guard.
"We must remember freedom that we all enjoy every day of our lives. It was not given to us by politicians, it was given to us by veterans," said Veteran Club of America Secretary Treasurer George Rook. "This is the land of the free because of the brave. God Bless the United States of America."
Pictured are (l to r) Veterans Club of America members Willy Bonham and Joe Morris, Vietnam veteran George Dzyacky, World War II veteran Clyde Sullivan and Veterans Club's George Rook.
Sullivan, who will turn age 90 in September, served from 1943 to 1945 in the U.S. Marine Corps, including two years overseas in the firing lines during the battles of Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa islands. His outfit in advanced recognizance received three presidential citations as a unit.
"We worked as a team," Sullivan said. "It was tough. I carried around a high-powered full automatic rifle that fired 500 rounds a minute. I was in three combat operations, and I had good training. We were prepared as any 18 or 19 year-old kids could be."
Sullivan, who is from Paden City, West Virginia, attended boot camp for eight weeks then more advanced combat training at Parris Island, South Carolina. That was after he attended college for one year. After his Marine service, he then finished his business degree in West Virginia and applied it to working in personnel departments for large companies before working in executive search firms.
"I was a people person," he said.
Sullivan is one of the longest-standing residents at Privateer, officially noted as the first "high rise" on the Beach by the Town's Historic Preservation Board with one of its current buildings first built in 1967. He and his wife purchased a beachfront condo in 1980 as a winter home. They moved down permanently in 2004.
"Three weeks later, we had Hurricane Charley," he said.
Sullivan calls the WWII experience an exciting time in his life.
"People say they were not afraid. They were afraid. That first landing was something, then Iwo Jima was even worse. I lost a lot of good friends. We lost 7,000 soldiers on that 8 square mile island and had 600,000 Marines in three full divisions on Iwo Jima. It was tough."
In February 2014, Sullivan will be attending a 70-year anniversary ceremony of The Battle of Iwo Jima in Cape Coral at the site of a 20-foot replica statue depicting five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raising the American flag on 560-foot Mount Suribachi, the highest point on Iwo Jima.
"I am looking forward to it. There was about 35 to 40 of us and a two-star general at the dedication of the statue," he said.
While 16 million soldiers served in WWII, there are approximately only one million still alive in the country.
Between August 1968 and December 1969, Dzyacky was assigned to the U.S. Navy Civic Action program (what can be described as the military version of the Peace Corps) in Da Ning with a mission to live among the villagers, along with two other Navy men, in a settlement called Binh Thuan and provide them with medical assistance and building materials. The Gary, Indiana native and board member at the Privateer organized the ceremony after the board approved the flag pole installation.
Veterans Club of America is involved in the Wounded Warrior Program and provides services for all veterans and spouses.
"We will make sure the spouses are covered," said Rook, who mentioned a survivor's pension. Rook, who will be installed as commander in November, can be reached at 839-2343.