Officials from the local Vietnam Veterans of America Fire Base #594 are hoping to get the message out: "Our Vets need a ride."
A trip has been planned to take 14 people to Washington, D.C., for celebrations during Veterans Day week in November. They need a way to get them there.
"We are trying to raise funds and get a van (or large vehicle) donated or to basically travel to Washington, D.C., with our chapter honor guards and some disabled veterans, where we will be placing wreaths on all the memorials including the Tomb of the Unknown," said Steven Nankervis, president of the organization based out of Cape Coral but serving veterans throughout all of Lee County.
"We have members in Cape Coral, North Fort Myers and Fort Myers, all over the place," he said. "We even have members in Georgia and all up the Eastern Seaboard."
"It is the 30th year anniversary of the Vietnam Wall, as well," said Donna Gerber, Florida events coordinator of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute and one of the organizers involved with fund raising. "They (Vietnam Veterans of America #594) have received authorization from Washington to present eight different locally hand-made wreaths at eight different memorials in Washington."
Getting a large vehicle donated or at a great discount would really help the veterans do such a special trip, she said.
The trip has other special significance, added Nankervis, "It is the 30th anniversary of the Vietnam Wall and the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The donation will be tax deductible and important because the guys are dying off, and we need to get some guys to the memorials who haven't seen them yet. We've buried men in their 60s; way too young."
They hope to leave Nov. 8 and be gone about a week - returning around Nov. 13 or 14.
They will get some funding for the trip from an October fund raiser planned at Anthony's on the BLVD in Cape Coral called the Cajun VetFest, an event to raise money for four local Veterans organizations on Saturday, Oct. 13.
Proceeds from the event will be split among the Vietnam Veterans of America, Pride and Patriotism for Lee County Schools and Cajun Classic, Inc., and Missing in America Project.
The restaurant will serve Cajun cuisine and patrons can get into the masquerade spirit by dressing up to win prizes in the costume contest.
That event starts at noon, with an opening ceremony honoring those who have served our country. There also will be live entertainment, food and drink specials and chance drawings for prizes all day long. A Texas Hold 'em Poker Tournament also will be held, starting at 3 p.m. There is a Chinese auction and other giveaways.
Admission for the Cajun VetFest is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Anthony's, 1303 Del Prado Blvd. Call 772-5900 for more information.
Meanwhile, Vietnam and other vets looking to get together with fellow service personnel are welcome to get involved with the local group.
"We meet at VFW Harney Point Post 8463 once a month," Nankervis said.
The meetings are open to any veterans, and held the third Monday of the month at 7 p.m. The post is at 4709 SE 11th Place right off 47th St.
"We do a lot of functions during the year," Nankervis said. "We just gave out four scholarships to veteran family members. We also just donated to the Special Olympics, the Wounded Warrior Project and more."
Anyone who would like to make a donation of transportation or funds can contact Nankervis at 772-2745.