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Local submarine officers group to dedicate memorial

By Staff | Mar 5, 2009

Not quite forgotten, but not quite celebrated, the men who served as submarine officers have unique and specialized experiences that bond them together under a unifying banner.
Now they will now have their own memorial at ECO Park, located next to the Iwo Jima statue, to honor all past and present submarine sailors.
The memorial, an authentic World War II anchor from a Gato class submarine, stems from the efforts of the Cape Coral Barb Base, a collection of Cape-based former submarine officers.
“Base Commander” Lou Simmons said the group has been working on the memorial for “quite a while,” with the anchor nearly turning up out of the blue in someone’s backyard.
“We found the anchor in the Cape, but no one knows how it got there,” he said. “But this has been a work in progress for about a year.”
Compared to the Vietnam vets and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations in the Cape, if not all of Lee County, Barb Base has had a relatively low-key presence during its 13-year existence.
According to Simmons, the group began in 1996 with five members. Now with more than 70 members, the group is part of a national charter that brings together submarine officers nationwide.
Simmons said it takes a special type of mental toughness to become a submarine officer, though he jokingly said that someone “has to be a little crazy to start with.”
“The selection process is tough, not everyone gets in,” he said. “You have to be mentally stable … it’s quite an experience.”
During its tenure, Barb Base has contributed funds to ROTC programs and scholarships, as well as visiting veterans’ hospitals.
Barb Base also burns flags every year at the Coconut Festival, as part of a retirement ceremony. Simmons said Barb Base burns “thousands” of flags each year.
Now the “bunch of old guys,” as Simmons described them, will get their moment in the sun with the dedication of the new memorial.
He warned that the ceremony will be short, with Cape Mayor Jim Burch leading the way with a dedication, followed by the color guard and a playing of taps.
“Nobody hears much about us, but we have a pretty good bunch of guys here,” Simmons said.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Simmons at 699-6112.