NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodFort Myers Metro South

Actions

"Never forget: Fort Myers Memorial Day ceremony remembers fallen service members

The annual event at Memorial Gardens drew a crowd of people paying their respects to our nations’s heroes
Posted at 6:11 PM, May 27, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A ceremony at Memorial Gardens honored our fallen service members this Memorial Day. People gathered to to pay tribute to local and national heroes, placing American flags on graves and reflecting on their sacrifices.

American flags at veteran's gravesite at Memorial Gardens with an Iwo Jima memorial in the background.
American flags at veteran's gravesite at Memorial Gardens with an Iwo Jima memorial in the background.

The ceremony featured a firing squad, given the command to "Aim...Fire!" followed by the sound of gunshots. Bagpipes played, adding to the poignant atmosphere. An orator reminded everyone, "Let us never forget every day that all gave some, some gave all, and freedom is not free."

People gathered at the Memorial Day ceremony at Memorial Gardens in Fort Myers.
People gathered at the Memorial Day ceremony at Memorial Gardens in Fort Myers.

One at a time, veterans came forward during the wreath recognition to place a wreath at the grave of a fallen veteran. Edward Hawkins, who served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam, emphasized remembering our nations heroes like this makes a big impact.

Veteran saluting before a wreath at the wreath recognition during the Memorial Day ceremony.
Veteran saluting before a wreath at the wreath recognition during the Memorial Day ceremony.

“If we can keep those thoughts alive in everyone's brains and everyone's minds, maybe we can find a world that’s at peace,” said Hawkins.

Standing next to Hawkins was John Camp, a Navy veteran from World War II. They both lost their namesake, James Doil Rader, in Vietnam when he was only 22.

Vietnam veteran, Edward Hawkins, and to his right, Navy veteran, John Camp.
Vietnam veteran, Edward Hawkins, and to his right, Navy veteran, John Camp.

Hawkins, Camp, and their families have a personal ceremony at Rader's grave site every year. A lone trumpet played as Camp spoke with emotion.

"It brought a tear to my eye, and it does 'til this day," Camp said.

Others, who may not have a fallen family member or friend at the cemetery, still come to pay their respects.

Hawkins, Camp, and their family's personal ceremony in honor of their fallen namesake, James Doil Rader.
Hawkins, Camp, and their family's personal ceremony in honor of their fallen namesake, James Doil Rader.

"We have the freedoms to enjoy our country because of their sacrifices - we should never forget that no matter what," said John Zadrovitz, a Fort Myers resident.

American flags in front of veteran gravesites at Memorial Gardens cemetery.
American flags in front of veteran gravesites at Memorial Gardens cemetery.