Spirit of '45 alive and well at Naples beach ceremony

Beach ceremony honors WWII soldiers

David Albers/Staff
- Attendees of the Naples Spirit of '45 Taps Across America event, including Bonita Springs resident Margo Peyrot, at lower right, watch an aircraft flyover by the Marco Island Civil Air Patrol at Lowdermilk Park in Naples, August 11, 2013. The annual nationwide patriotic ceremony commemorating the end of World War II concluded a weekend of veteran events locally in Naples.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - Attendees of the Naples Spirit of '45 Taps Across America event, including Bonita Springs resident Margo Peyrot, at lower right, watch an aircraft flyover by the Marco Island Civil Air Patrol at Lowdermilk Park in Naples, August 11, 2013. The annual nationwide patriotic ceremony commemorating the end of World War II concluded a weekend of veteran events locally in Naples.

— Military veterans and supporters gathered on Naples beach Sunday evening in what is now an annual tradition to honor surviving World War II soldiers.

About 200 people gathered for the Spirit of ’45 celebration at Lowdermilk Park just before sunset, a mix of veterans in their 80s and 90s wearing memorabilia from their branch of the Armed Forces, younger former servicemen and women, families, and beachgoers who migrated once the trumpets started playing.

“We believe in these people. We believe in these men and women,” said Greg Garcia of the Museum of Military Memorabilia at Naples Municipal Airport, who brought his World War II Jeep, built in 1942, to the event.

In between the Pledge of Allegiance and a benediction from Pastor Keith Lingsch of Grace Lutheran Church, organizers asked World War II veterans to identify themselves. About 20 in the crowd stood.

Among them was Tim Timrud, a veteran from the U.S. Marine Corps who described first being a survivor of the Battle of Iwo Jima while deployed to the Pacific theater, before serving in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Events such as Sunday’s are important for World War II veterans, Timrud said, “because we’re disappearing every day.”

Leo Ruble, who chose the Army in his early 20s because “I think I look better in brown,” is writing his memoirs, including the years he served in Europe during World War II.

Two days before his 93rd birthday, he tries to attend every local event that includes veterans, especially the Spirit of ’45.

“I never miss it,” Ruble said.

Earlier this year, following in the footsteps of the U.S. Congress, the Florida Legislature passed a resolution declaring the second Sunday of August the official “Spirit of ‘45” day in the state.

Groups around the country have organized nearly identical events since 2010.

The crowd stuck out 10 minutes of rain Sunday, which ultimately yielded to a rainbow as a six-piece trumpet band played taps.

Then, with about 12 to 15 people on each edge of a large American flag, the group held the standard up over a swathe of beach, as a wreath was taken deeper in to the Gulf of Mexico on a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boat to dispatch the flowers at sea.

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