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May 30, 2000
Section: Local State
Page: 1B

Veterans honor fallen comrades

By Kevin Lollar, The News-Press

A light breeze blew in from the Gulf of Mexico, and by 9 a.m. Monday the Memorial Day festivities had begun at Lynn Hall Park in Fort Myers Beach.

Boom boxes boomed, coolers cooled drinks, fishermen fished, kids splashed, drivers looked futilely for space in the packed parking lot, bodies glistened with sunscreen, the sun beat down with the promise of daylong heat.

And romance was in the air for George and Melissa Busi of Tampa.

As Melissa Busi, 24, looked on, George Busi, 28, wrote in the sand: "2nd Anniversary."

"This is a tradition," Melissa Busi said. "We spent our honeymoon here, and we spent our first anniversary here. We stayed in the same hotel and ate at the same Greek restaurant. And we do this - writing in the sand - every year."

Fifty yards down the beach, Skip Albers, 63, of Fort Myers settled into his beach chair to read "The Town" by Bentley Little.

Before cracking the book, though, the retired Air Force staff sergeant slathered on sunscreen with a protection factor of 4.

Although his main concern Monday was getting some sun and reading his book, Albers said Americans should remember the meaning of Memorial Day.

"I was in the Air Force 21 years, and the sacrifice our veterans have made is very close to me," he said.

That sacrifice was the focus of Memorial Day services around Lee County.

In downtown Fort Myers, the Gulf Coast All Airborne Chapter, 82nd Airborne Division Association conducted its annual observance at the Airborne monument at the corner of Edwards Drive and Lee Street.

Before the ceremony began, Wes Kuehnle and Cal Henderson, a pair of World War II paratroopers, swapped war stories.

"I don't look at it like we saved the world," Cape Coral resident Kuehnle, 79, said. "We were just doing a job that needed to be done. Why we joined the paratroopers is we felt we were the toughest guys around, and they needed a lot of tough guys in those days."

Henderson, 75, of Fort Myers said Memorial Day is not a time to remember those who fought for the country and came home.

"I remember the guys I was with who got killed, the guys who are not here today," he said. "I wonder after all those years what they could have done with their lives, what they could have contributed. They made the sacrifice. It's sad, a terrible tragedy. But because of them, we have a nation we can be proud of."

Meanwhile, back at Lynn Hall Park, window installer James Petersen, 40, of Fort Myers was left alone to tend ribs and chicken wings sizzling on a grill while his children, nieces and nephews were romping on the beach.

"I want to go home and get me a beer," he said. "But I'm with the kids, so I'm just sitting here, chilling."

- Kevin Lollar can be reached at 335-0389.

PHOTO CAPTION  (photo not available)

HONORING THOSE WHO DIED William Lynch, who served in the 82nd Airborne, 504th Parachute Infantry, salutes as the color guard walks by after presenting colors at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Airborne monument in downtown Fort Myers on Monday morning. TODD STUBING/The News-Press

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