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Military museum and library opens

By Staff | Sep 12, 2012

The Southwest Florida Military Museum/Library at the new Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation headquarters opened Sunday.

“The opening was wonderful, exceptional,” said Executive Vice President Donald Graf. “Our estimated numbers were over 500 people that came through.

“People were very enthusiastic,” he added. “We had a comment sheet, and some of the comments were ‘God Bless you!’ and ‘Great job” and “We’ll be back”.

This week, the museum will not have regular hours, but will be open starting Monday, Sept. 17 six days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sundays. The sporadic closings this week are while the group is in transition from its old location on Del Prado Boulevard to this new location, 4820 Leonard St., across from the Sweetbay Parking Lot next to Rib City.

“We have lots of historical military items we had stored and were finally able to put them out for display,” Graf said.

His favorite items are those that tell stories of heroism, for example, a letter from a soldier who was taken prisoner.

“On the night he was taken prisoner, he sent a positive note to his family,” Graf said.

There are uniforms from soldiers in all branches of the service and many different conflicts, flags, helmets, guns and swords, other memorabilia and many, many books.

“This is actually Phase One -a beginning of the museum and library. There will be more items,” said Sonia Raymond.

She is a retired librarian and volunteer who has been doing cataloguing of the military items – more than 1,000 so far.

“In my computer I have a program with about 1,000 items of books and memorabilia,” Raymond said. “Now we can unpack more; there will probably be about 3,000 items when they are catalogued.”

And they are getting more and more donations.

“We have a lot of items people don’t know what to do with, from their relatives – medals, uniforms, photographs and more,” she said.”

There are different types of displays.

“We tried to display items, especially if there is a picture of the person, something many can relate to,” Raymond added.

Adults and children came to the opening.

“We would like to see more children come in, as an educational opportunity. We did see some children at the opening and hope to have some educational tours from the schools eventually.”

More items are welcomed.

“We encourage people not to throw out these items, we’ll be glad to take them as donations for future displays,” she said.

For information, call 541-8704.