Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Bill MacNeill listens during the 10th annual Greatest Generation and Beyond Tribute.

Naples Parish hosts patriotic celebration

Naples  |  The Pulte Family Life Center of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples was decorated in red, white and blue Aug. 10, as the host of the 10th Annual Greatest Generation and Beyond Tribute.

The day was billed as a tribute to the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, the June 1944 invasion of Western Europe by the Allies, and brought together more than two dozen veterans of World War II.

All veterans, their spouses, children and grandchildren were invited to the celebration which takes place each year on the closest date to the second Sunday of August. The reason is that is the “Official Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive Day” as proclaimed by the 111th U.S. Congress Concurrent Resolution in 2010.

“This is a tribute to the greatest generation who served during World War II as sentinels of liberty and for those who have followed in their footsteps,” said Dr. JB Holmes, U.S. Air Force veteran and commander of the Veterans of Foreign War Council 7721.

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Bill MacNeill, who served for 20 years as an engineer building roads, bridges and bunkers all over the world including in the Vietnam War, attended the event wearing his old uniform.

“It makes me proud to have served my country,” MacNeill explained. “This is great that there is some recognition for the service of all veterans.”

Presented by the Southwest Florida Veterans Alliance Inc., this was the first year St. John the Evangelist Parish served as host to the event as previous venues have been outgrown. The opening ceremony included a call for all World War II veterans to stand and be recognized. The more than two dozen, one of whom just turned 100, stood and waved to everyone as all applauded. The crowd then stood to give them their due respect for their service.

When the U.S. flag was brought forth, all veterans immediately saluted, and this was followed by a singing of the National Anthem and reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The celebration also included musical performances and presentations to individuals and groups who support local veteran organizations. The event concluded when all of the veterans were called forth to the stage for a “Sentinels of Liberty” photo. There was a complimentary continental breakfast and lunch with exhibits from numerous local military organizations including a mobile replica of the Iwo Jima Memorial from the Marine Corps League of Naples, and a replica of the U.S. Florida nuclear submarine from the Naples U.S. Submarines Veterans group.