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Veterans honored at annual Nam Jam

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Oct 14, 2020


In Southwest Florida, veterans are treated with respect and gratitude for their service.

It wasn’t always that way, especially for those who served in Vietnam.

On Sunday, at the Shell Factory & Nature Park, those veterans, as well as all other vets, were honored at the fourth annual Nam Jam. Hundreds gathered for a day of fun and remembrance and the first major event of the season at the historic attraction.

By early afternoon, all the tables were full with veterans and their spouses and friends.

“Everyone is wearing hats and clothing of where they served and I think this will be the best Nam Jam we’ve had,” said Anne Sheridan, general manager of the Shell Factory. “We were wondering if we would be able to hold it this year, but the governor released some of the guidelines and we set up a little differently this year.”

The event featured a ceremony honoring all veterans, with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard, the National Anthem performed by Barbara B, and a prayer from Richard Dunmire.

Ret. Army Col. Nick Hubbell was the guest speaker, who spoke about his service in Vietnam and being the youngest commissioned officer in the military.

He said that with election day coming up, people should be free to vote for whomever they feel, since it’s what people like him went to battle for.

The Guns & Hoses Pipe and Drum Corps performed, which included the medley of military fight songs, and the Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts dancers also entertained the crowd.

There was also a 50/50 raffle to benefit the Southwest Florida Military Museum. Ralph Santillo, the founder of Invest in America’s Veterans and the museum, said the museum would be moving Nov. 1 from its location in Cape Coral to the Edison Mall.

Santillo said that COVID-19 took the wind out of the museum’s sails.

“That was the 1-2 punch. We closed in February and didn’t reopen until April. Our traffic went from 2,000 visitors per month to 200. It annihilated us,” Santillo said. “This is a great organization and the people are friendly to us.

Dave Branson, commander of AMVETS Post 81, said it was great that the Shell Factory pays tribute to veterans every year.

“I love that they do this, especially for the Vietnam veterans and I hope this continues to grow,” Branson said. “If it weren’t for veterans, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing now. It’s why we have the freedom we have.”