Cape Coral Veterans Memorial Monument rededicated
People driving along the Cape Coral Bridge at night may notice something different.
The Cape Coral Veterans Memorial Monument will be lit for the first time in about six months.
The 55-foot structure sits in the median on Cape Coral Parkway near the intersection of Cape Coral Parkway and Del Prado Boulevard.
The pointed, yellow spire-like monument can be easy to miss as cars whizz by on the busy road, but new lights, a repaired fountain–and a variety of other improvements–are breathing new life into the Veterans Memorial Monument, inspired during a Rotary meeting in 1967 during the Vietnam War.
The monument was originally dedicated in 1969. Lighting, a fountain, and extensive median landscaping were added in 2000.
Nov. 14’s rededication ceremony was hosted by the President of the Cape Coral Historical Museum Gloria Tate and the Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department’s Special Events Division.
Just in time for the city’s 50th anniversary, the monument was pressure washed, the landscaping was restored, the steps were repainted, it got a new base, the bronze plaque was reconditioned, the fountain was restored, and refacing will include new pumps and lights.
“This whole stretch of roadway has been transformed and now it’s culminating in the rededication of this memorial monument for the veterans,” said Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello.
Cape Coral has a high veteran population, many of whom served in the Vietnam War.
But the monument doesn’t just celebrate Vietnam War veterans; it preserves the memories of those who fought in wars from all generations.
“Back then (in 1969) we were in the middle of the Vietnam War,” said ACRA Electric, Inc. President Robert Greco, who was involved in the last dedication 20 years ago. “People had kids going to Vietnam. Some came back wounded and some didn’t come back.
“They needed a monument that would be here in perpetuity, that would honor them–all veterans, not just ones from Vietnam.”
One of the most notable additions is color-changing LED lights and the replacement of the medallions that represent the four branches of the military: the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines.
The new set is a little bigger, brighter and more colorful than the old ones. They were also manufactured locally.
The 5:30 p.m. ceremony on Nov. 14 included a presentation of colors, the national anthem, sets of medallions passed down to organizations like the City of Cape Coral and the Cape Coral Museum of History, and flipping the switch to turn the lights on.
Coviello also issued a proclamation for the rededication of the Cape Coral Parkway Memorial Arch.
Before the standard white lights were turned on, the monument was lit with red lights for Valentines Day, red and green for Christmas and red and blue for the Fourth of July.
The lights will stay white, but turn different colors for special occasions, like holidays.
Guest speakers included Coviello, Greco, and Lt. Col. Gary Peppers.
Grecco read from part of a letter from March 1968.
He asked attendees to imagine Cape Coral in 1967 when it was a small town and not even half the size it is today.
The bridge had only been built for three years. And it was during the height of the Vietnam War when members at a Rotary meeting decided they needed to do something to honor those who served.
Back in 1968, the community–not a group or an individual–sponsored the monument and it belonged to everyone, like it still does today.
The recent renovations from several individuals, companies and organizations included ACRA Electric Inc., Siesta Pebble, Ryan’s Pressure Washing, Inc., Securitech1, Waltzing Waters, Carolyn Conant, Harney Point VFW and the City of Cape Coral.
“It really was a community effort,” Greco said of the most recent renovation. “Just like when it was built in the first place.”
Building and preserving the monument has indeed been a true community effort since the ’60s.
“The monument is right there, it’s such a prominent feature of Cape Coral,” Greco said. “It’s been there since 1969. The residents put it there. It wasn’t an organization or a group. It was all of them. It was really put there by Cape Coral for a worthwhile cause.”
The Kiwanis donated $1,000 on March 21, 1968 to the original Memorial Arch fund. A week later on March 28, the fund drive began as contributions were given throughout the community.
The end result was a 55-foot tower of four 10,000 pound prestressed concrete pylons with four heavy gauge gold anodized chevrons on each side, which, along with the gold anodized aluminum top cap, represent the branches of the military.
Lee County issued the permit for the construction of the Memorial Marker in 1968 and organizers reached their $5,000 goal in September.
On Dec. 7, ground was broken for the project and the monument was dedicated on “Loyalty Day,” May 3, 1969.
About 30 years later in 2000, the community came together again to support the Veteran’s Memorial.
In 1999, Rotarian Alan Gray approached ACRA Electric, Inc. to light it.
“I got involved sort of by accident at a Rotary meeting in 1999,” Greco said. “They wanted to do a quote for the lighting on the monument. I did some research on who built it and how it got there. I kind of got hooked on helping the monument get restored.”
Before Greco knew it, more people came out of the woodwork and wanted to help.
Carolyn Conant and her group “Greenscape” became involved.
That’s when the monument got a complete renovation of the median. This included new landscaping and permanent power to the median. Aqua Pools donated the fountain basin, ACRA donated four 1,000-watt metal halide lights with wiring and installation, and Mike Prystowick from Waltzing Waters donated the fountain.
The monument was first rededicated in 2000 on Veterans Day.
This year’s ceremony marked the second rededication, and the second time the community joined forces to bring the monument back into the light.
The most recent rededication initiative began with Greco.
“Last year I was driving by the monument. The city’s 50th anniversary was coming up and the monument really hadn’t changed since 20 years ago. The lights were failing, the fountain wasn’t working and it was time to give it some attention,” Greco said.
“I basically called the old gang back together. Everyone was on board right away, and there were a lot of new people, too. In my opinion, it was an easy project. The monument just needed some TLC.”
The City of Cape Coral pressure washed the monument and Lee County restored the landscaping.
The base of the fountain was restored by Siesta Pebble, who donated labor and materials to reface the exterior of the base with travertine donated by StoneMart.
“Between them, we had a total refreshed basin,” ” Greco said.
The City of Cape Coral, in cooperation with Waltzing Waters, refurbished the fountain.
The fountain will receive new pumps and lights, and controls will be repaired.
The steps at the bottom of the monument were repainted by Brian Greenwell.
ACRA Electric, Inc installed the new color-changing LED lighting, and did electrical work for the fountain and replaced the flagpole light.
Donations were collected to replace the monument’s 16 medallions, which were probably about 50 years old.
“An email was sent out, “Greco said. “And within two hours, we had all the money we needed.”
The medallions were sponsored by: Dane Kelly, Wayne Kirkwood, Steve Bowen, Carolyn Conant, Bob Knight, Larry Wier, Brian Kirby, Gary Aubuchon, Elmer Tabor, Tom Giles, Helen Ramey, Phil Deems and Vince Cautero.
Greco said changing the medallions were tricky because they had to get a right-of-way permit to close the lanes of traffic.
“There was great cooperation between the city and county to make it happen,” he said.
Coviello shared that sentiment.
“The community came together, the business community as well as the city and county to make this happen,” he said. “It’s all for remembering the veterans we have who live in this city. It now has LED lights and it looks awesome.
“Lots of people drive by that monument every day. Now they’re going to see it when it’s lit.”
The plaque on the monument reads: “In recognition of the men and women of Cape Coral who have served who are serving in the armed forces of the United States, and in loving memory of those who will never return.”