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Gunterberg Foundation donation paves way to move Vietnam Veterans monument to Cape

By CJ HADDAD - | Jan 6, 2021

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be moved from Fort Myers to Eco Park in Cape Coral.

cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

The spirit of giving during the holiday season was alive and well last Tuesday morning in Cape Coral at the newly opened Brotherhood of Heroes Resource Center and Museum. 

Founder and long-time community philanthropist Dr. Carol Rae Culliton presented Gary Bowler, president of the Veterans Midpoint Memorial Charitable Trust Inc., with a $20,000 check on behalf of the Gunterberg Foundation to relocate the Vietnam Veterans monument, currently located just over the bridge in Fort Myers, to Cape Coral’s Eco Park Veterans Area. 

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Culliton said. “I heard there were some issues with the prior location and our Eco Park where we have all of our veterans memorials is just beautiful. It was really a no-brainer.”

Bowler, a Vietnam veteran and member in good standing with the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 594, was simply overjoyed at the gesture. He is also the vice president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

“It’s a great Christmas present and a great way to start the New Year,” he said. 

A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Jan. 7 at 11 a.m. at Eco Park. 

The monument was originally dedicated in 2008 by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 594 on McGregor Boulevard at Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers. It commemorates 80 veterans from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties who were killed in action.

Cape Coral City Council approved the relocation at a meeting on Dec. 7. 

“For us veterans that are still alive — so many have passed since I’ve been involved over 25 years. I must know 30-plus people personally that have passed on,” Bowler said. “For all of their memories, and most important for the names that are on the wall, those 80 names, it’s entrusted to us to look after them.”

Culliton and Bowler both agree Eco Park is the perfect new home for the monument. 

“Eco Park is a great place for people to walk and think and remember their family,” Culliton said. “It’s our mission to honor veterans and what better way to honor those departed soldiers than to give them a wall where people can go and see and touch it. It’s just a way to show our respect.”

According to the trust, proposals for road improvements or highway expansions threaten the limited parking and accessibility at the current site. 

Relocation efforts have been in the works for nearly a year and were finally made possible by Culliton.

“The reason to move it was because of expansion. We had no choice,” Bowler said. “To have it in a secure place like Eco Park, it will give us peace of mind that we’re leaving it to the city and it’s in great hands.”

The Bowlers said the Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department offered a spot in the same area as the renowned Felix de Weldon Iwo Jima Statue replica, Purple Heart Monument, Iraq Monument, and others. 

“We’re grateful to the city of Cape Coral and the Parks and Recreation Department who continue to support us veterans, and that’s a great thing,” Bowler said. 

Bowler said they hope to locate the Vietnam Memorial on the west end of the area between the large electronic sign and Blue Star Memorial Highway marker. 

“We’ll have two great anchors for the park in the Iwo Jima monument and now the Vietnam monument to really stand out,” Bowler said. 

As a Vietnam veteran, Bowler knows their numbers are dwindling and felt it was important to keep alive the memory of those lost, especially for the families. Eco Park’s Veteran Area was a perfect fit. 

Bowler is hoping for a dedication on March 27, 2021, the weekend of Vietnam Veterans Day.

— Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj