Whether by land or by water, the public is invited to take part in a special floating service next weekend that is designed to honor military personnel who have been lost or buried at sea.
Hosted by Rainbow Memorials at Sea, the service will take place on Wreaths Across America Day, Dec. 14. Wreaths Across America is a national nonprofit founded in 2007 to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, according to the group's Web site.
This year, more than 825 participating locations are expected to host wreath-laying ceremonies.
The goal is to remember fallen heroes, honor those who serve and teach children about the scarifies made by veterans and their families to preserve America's freedom - Remember, Honor, Teach.
"We noticed there were no services for veterans lost at sea," Capt. Pat McCarn, owner of Rainbow Memorials at Sea, said of why he and his wife spearheaded the floating service five years ago.
It is aimed at families who do not have a physical location to go to to remember their loved one.
"It's just a nice ceremony that is something nice to do for veterans' families," he said
At 9 a.m., boats participating in the service will meet and leave from the Veterans Bridge.
The public is welcome to take part. Boaters interested in doing so need to contact McCarn ahead of time at (239) 673-8749 or (239) 242-0883 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for all the details.
"It's definitely a program for regular boaters," he said.
At the same time, seven ceremonial wreaths will be escorted from Horton Park to the Cape Coral Yacht Club by police, Patriot Guard Riders, the Vietnam Brotherhood and Special Forces Motorcycle Club.
According to McCarn, the Worcester Wreath Company sends seven wreaths to each participating location every year to represent the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW-MIA. Businessman Morrill Worcester was the one who initiated the Arlington tradition.
"We'll probably get them some time next week," he said of the seven wreaths.
The boats and escort will meet at the Cape yacht club for a wreath presentation ceremony, which is expected to take place between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Dignitaries and guest speakers will be in attendance.
The VFW Post 8463 Honor Guard and Harp and Thistle Pipe Band will be on hand.
McCarn noted there is usually a 21-gun salute by boat or from the pier.
The public is welcome to attend; parking will be available at the yacht club.
"We're going to have some people directing traffic," he said.
McCarn suggested that people come early to make sure they have a spot.
The wreath presentation will last for about 20 minutes, then the boats will head out to sea.
"We'll probably have over 50 boats," he said Thursday.
Some of the participating marine units will include the Cape police and fire, Fort Myers police, U.S. Coast Guard and Auxiliary, Lee County Sheriff's Office, Customs and Border Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife, Sea Tow and Tow Boat Us, according to McCarn.
The boats will travel three miles off shore, where Chaplain Col. Larry Ager will lead the service.
Last year, more than 54 boats participated in the service - about 300 people were involved.
McCarn estimated that approximately 100 people attended the wreath presentation.
"It's to pay tribute to our lost veterans who were lost or buried at sea," he said. "It's a little tribute, especially for their families."
For more information on Wreaths Across America, visit: www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.