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Nam Jam attracts vets to Shell Factory

October 25, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

When Hurricane Irma resulted in the cancellation of the Nam Jam at the Shell Factory last month, it wasn't known what kind of participation there would be when they rescheduled it.

On Sunday, everyone found out. More than 1,000 military veterans, many of which were from the Vietnam era, gathered for an afternoon of fun, food and remembrance at an inaugural event that will most likely become on annual one.

The month-long delay turned out to be a blessing. Because it was mostly overcast, it was also much cooler and less muggy. And since a good share of the snowbirds had returned south, it made for an even busier event.

Article Photos

From left, World War II veterans Robert Voorhees, Bob Shelto, William Holland, Peter Zes, Richard Copeland and “Dutch” Holland, sitting, get their due on stage at the inaugural Nam Jam at the Shell Factory on Sunday.


Tom and Pam Cronin, owners of the Shell Factory, were surprised with the response.

"This is our first time at this and I'm tickled to death by how many came. It turned out pretty good," Tom said. "I'm an old Army vet, and people are starting to get more patriotic and that's a good thing."

"God loves us and wants us to be happy. He wanted the veterans to be honored and out of bad things came a wonderful thing and I think it was more successful and more in tune with honoring those who serve, including first responders," said Pam.

It also served a big plus for Invest in America's Veterans Foundation, which runs the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library in Cape Coral and has a small exhibit at the Shell Factory.

Jim Zbick, historian and curator at the museum, and Sonia Raymond, museum director, brought a rebuilt 1943 Willy's Jeep to the event. He said their partnership with the Shell Factory has been a strong one.

"We hope we get more people to come to the museum because we're the best kept secret in Cape Coral. Few people know we're there and we keep trying to being them in," Raymond said.

Peter Bush of NBC-2 served as the host, while Chuck Peterson played the tunes, mostly those from the '60s and early '70s.

And while the event was geared toward Vietnam vets, there were others as well, including six from World War II, who took their place on the stage and stole the show.

The vets happily stood aside and waited in a long line as event-goers shook hands with these 90-somethings and thanked them for their service during the biggest war of all.

While the veterans got a chance to eat for free and visit the nature park, the main event was the ceremony for veterans, featuring the Lee County Sheriff's Office Color Guard, the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, a reading of the meaning of the Battlefield Cross and missing man table from Zbick, and words from the World War II vets hosted by fellow veteran Richard Dunmire.

Vietnam veterans such as Doug Jackson, of Fort Myers, were very happy with the event and pleased to get the adulation that many of them didn't get when they first left the service.

"I love all the soldiers from all the wars. It's very sad that people are burning the American flag, disrespecting the flag, and the NFL is very wrong in what they're doing," Jackson said. "I got a lot of bad feedback when I came home from other veterans. Now, we get lots of respect because we do things for veterans and abused children."

Grant McEwan, who served in Vietnam from 1958-60 and 1962-64, said he didn't know there were so many vets like him in Southwest Florida and he was glad they were getting their just due after what he and other endured.

"The country disrespected us quite openly and it was disgusting. They were taken their frustrations out on the wrong people," McEwan said. "It wasn't us. It was Washington. They ran the war from the White House and we were the tip of the spear. It was the Vietnam vets who hanged the mindsets of the American people."

Ronald Price, senior vice commander of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 108 in Cape Coral, said Americans learned a valuable lesson.

"The important lesson learned by American society was to separate the warrior from the war. The men and women serving today are only doing their job," Price said.



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