CAPE CORAL, Fla. — The slow, somber notes of“Taps” remind everyone of the real meaning behind Memorial Day.
As some of us gather for barbecues or a day out on the water, others assemble to remember the loved ones who lost their lives for this nation.
“Freedom is not free, it’s paid for in blood,” said Roger Mercaldi Jr., a merchant marine visiting from New Hampshire.
Honoring the fallen soldiers is part of this country’s tradition, but it took a while to give recognition to some that played a crucial role in previous wars.
U.S. Merchant Marine and the Navy Armed Guard were not recognized as veterans until 1988, almost 45 years after being a vital asset during World War II. They were responsible for transporting supplies to foreign nations during times of peace and war.
“The merchant marines have been involved in every military conflict, anywhere in the world, serving the United States of America,” said Anthony DiNattia, chairman of Merchant Marines Memorial.
Their role was also dangerous, killing thousands of men and women.
“The average person does not know what a marine merchant is or what they went through in World War II, and it’s really a shame,” Mercaldi said.
That’s why the U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans Southwest Florida Chapter and the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library created two monuments dedicated specifically for merchant marines and the navy armed guard. They unveiled the monuments at Four Mile Ecological Preserve in Cape Coral on Sunday.
“Give them the recognition, the honor, their families, to feel the spirit of how much of what they did is appreciated by American society,” said David Yoho, a World War II veteran.
The commemoration also paid tribute to two other veterans, Greg Goodrich and U.S. Army major Brent Taylor. Goodrich received a dog tag on the Iraq war hero's monument, he served in the U.S. Army and was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Taylor served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library will host the inaugural Cape Coral Memorial Day Parade on Monday in downtown Cape Coral.