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HEROES WELCOME: Beach shows “Spirit” to WWII vets

August 14, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Remember and do not forget.

That appeared to be the sentiment among the guest speakers at the Sprit of '45 ceremony when Fort Myers Beach held a special tribute to honor several attending World War II veterans at Junkanoos on the Beach on Sunday.

The celebration featured a special dinner, Color Guard, an Opening Prayer, "The Star Spangled Banner" sung by Town Manager Terry Stewart, a helicopter flyover by the Lee County Sheriff's Office, an aerial salute to the Flag by the Beach Fire Department, a proclamation reading by Councilman Alan Mandel, a bagpiper rendition of "Amazing Grace," "Taps" played on trumpet and two patriotic songs led by DAZ musical duo.

Article Photos

Bagpiper Jack Thompson plays 'Amazing Grace' as Commander Lew Tolleson of the Veterans Club of America Post 1and Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker listen in.

Beach Mayor Larry Kiker was again honored to emcee the event.

'I can't tell you how important, excited and wonderful it is for me to be here. It is one of the highest privileges and honors I have had since I have been in office to be among the veterans, families and friends of the people who I think are the best that America has to honor," he said. "To those that presently serve and to those that have served, you are the ones that made our country what it is today -safe and free."

Kiker became emotional when he told the attendees that his father served in World War II. "I am not able to share his memories, but I can share your memories."

Commander Lew Tolleson of the Veterans Club of America Post 1 reviewed a lot of the sites and battles that the Greatest Generation fought at or in and eulogized the roughly 466,000 soldiers that lost their lives in doing so and more than 75,000 who are still unaccounted for.

'I am humbled and deeply honored to be in the midst of such a great group of Americans," he said. "You gave up (your current lives) to what would eventually lead to saving freedom around the world. You did this not because you were looking for fame, but because it was the right thing to do. We are in your debt. God bless you."

Councilman Joe Kosinski, an Army veteran and event coordinator, reminded all that the American society combined forces to join in celebrations on the declared second Sunday of August to remember the anniversary of Aug. 14, 1945, the day President Truman announced the end of World War II.

"Communities across America are honoring men and women of the World War II generation not only by remembering their service and sacrifice but by pledging ourselves to continue their legacy," he said. "We are here today to make sure our World War II veterans are not forgotten and to draw strength and inspiration from their example of national unity, cooperation, service and selflessness as we face the challenges of today and in the future."

After several ceremonial festivities, Kiker paraphrased former President Ronald Reagan during closing remarks before all participants were invited in place a flag in an assigned wreath during the Wreath Ceremony.

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The U.S. veterans don't have that problem," he said.

One women's service in WWII

Beach resident Madeline Sappah has lived in the Southwest Florida area for 40 years, many of those years on Fort Myers Beach. She is originally from Erie, Pa. and was a member of Women's Auxiliary Army Corps, which later changed to Women's Army Corps in 1942 when that military branch made the decision to accept women into active duty. She served until the end of the war in 1945.

'I was 23 years old. I signed up as soon as I could," she said.

Sappah was assigned to posts in Connecticut and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and worked in the photography field by taking photos of maps to create "wet maps" out of those photos.

"I never got out of the country. I wanted to," she said.

Sappah stated her husband was assigned to the Tinian Islands, known as the busiest airfield in the war after battle there.

'He didn't want me to go overseas because I would be coming back later than he would," she said.

The proud military tradition continued in the family. The Sappah's oldest son flew helicopters in Vietnam, while their youngest was involved in Korean War conflict.



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