LAKEWOOD RANCH — John Breiner remembers going to the Memorial Day parade his uncle, Ed, started in Saddle Brook, N.J., as if it were yesterday.
But never in his wildest dreams did he think he’d start one of his own decades later and 1,200 miles away from his hometown.
But it’s happening.
The first Salute to Heroes Parade will begin at 1 p.m., May 24, on Lakewood Ranch Main Street. It will start at The Polo Grill and make its way down the street, ending at Ed’s Tavern. There, a 40-foot container will be waiting to be filled with non-perishable items to send to men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Our goal is to fill a 40-foot trailer with things for the soldiers,” Breiner said.
Manatee’s Operation Troop Support has agreed to handle shipping costs for the container, but a raffle will be held to help cover expenses.
Additionally, Matt Bruce of The Captain’s America Radio Show on 1220 WSRQ AM Radio will be performing a live broadcast from the site for much of the event, which will last from 1-7 p.m. There will be live music throughout the day, weather permitting, and Ed’s Tavern will host a Salute To Our Heroes Memorial Day Bash from noon until closing.
Breiner said he is still working on logistics for the event, but he’s hoping to get the Lakewood Ranch High School marching band and other organizations to participate. Already, Ellie Ohlman, Miss Lakewood Ranch High School, has agreed to ride in the parade, as have members of the Blue Knights, an organization for active and retired police officers who ride motorcycles, he said.
Breiner also is trying to get children and families to write letters to soldiers serving overseas. Letters can be dropped off at Ed’s Tavern or MOTS.
Breiner came up with the idea for a local Memorial Day parade just a few weeks ago after visiting Busch Gardens with his wife, Jackie, and twin sons, Jason and Derek. While he and his family were walking, they passed Salute to Heroes Boulevard and Breiner was struck by the fact that he was spending a day with his family while soldiers around the world were sacrificing to protect his freedoms.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t really think about it much anymore,” Breiner said. “I thought, as a business owner here, there’s got to be something we can do.”
When Breiner got back to Lakewood Ranch that day, he called Gulf Coast Eagle Distributing with his idea for a Memorial Day parade. A friend later connected him with Manatee’s Operation Troop Support, a nonprofit organization that sends materials to Manatee County residents who are serving overseas.
And soon, the Salute to Heroes campaign was underway.
“As generations have gone by, we’ve kind of gotten away from this kind of thing, (but) here we are in Lakewood Ranch, and we’re about to have a Memorial Day parade,” Breiner said. “I’m just trying to get a little bit of help from everybody. My goal is to get this started this year and it can get bigger and bigger.
Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].
Salute to Heroes Parade
WHEN: 1-7 p.m., May 24. Parade starts at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Lakewood Ranch Main Street
WHAT TO BRING: Chairs to watch the parade, donations for soldiers and letters for soldiers.
Organizers are hoping to fill a 40-foot container with non-perishable goods for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lakewood Ranch Cinemas will be collecting items post-event. Financial donations can be made to MOTS.
Requested items include:
Soaps and lotions
Cigarettes and cigars
Food items that will not melt
Non-perishable cookies or cakes