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Big turnout at Nam Jam

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Oct 18, 2021

Sas`e Smith sings the National Anthem at the fifth-annual Nam Jam at the Shell Factory on Sunday.

The fifth annual Nam Jam at the Shell Factory & Nature Park was held under spectacular blue skies and with hundreds of veterans from all branches and from all eras, including World War II.

The event has always held reverence for all veterans, but it is especially for those who served during the Vietnam era, whose veterans were not always held in such high esteem, especially during the war itself.

The event itself featured music from the Vietnam era and a ceremony that paid tribute to all veterans, with the National Anthem and bagpipers.

Veterans who presented a military ID received free admission to the nature park, a free round of mini golf for four, hot dog and chips, tickets for two draft beers or one well drink and 20 percent off purchases in the retail store.

Additionally, there was a 50/50 raffle, with half of the proceeds benefiting the Southwest Florida Military Museum, whose mobile museum was parked in the center lot, and the JROTC from Mariner High School.

Bianca Morey, JROTC member, said she has learned a lot about veterans and how they command respect.

“No matter what war they’re from or where they’re from, they all come together and get along well and tell all their stories, especially students like me,” Morey said. “The Vietnam veterans are very caring and they love to tell their stories.”

Veterans from the era were thrilled to have a day dedicated to them.

“I love this event. I come every year. It’s great for the families of the AMVETS and the people in the area,” said Walter Ahmad, Vietnam veteran and AMVETS Post 81 member. “They always show their support every year.”

Veterans were also thrilled they weren’t living in the day when they were spat on and disrespected.

“That’s what happened in the ’60s, but that’s completely changed. We get the same respect as World War II veterans and all the other veterans,” Ahmad said.

Armand LeFleur was in the Army in 1970, and said it took a lot of work for the tide to turn for their veterans.

“The saddest part is that it came from our generation. Once the other wars started, we decided this wasn’t going to happen to any other veteran that comes after us,” LeFleur said.

The Shell Factory is at 16554 N. Cleveland Ave. For more information, call 995-2141 or go to shellfactory.com.