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Military Museum to get a jump on Memorial Day

By Staff | May 15, 2015

Veterans are invited to stop by the Southwest Florida Military Museum Tuesday, May 19, for a complimentary massage and a bite to eat, all while enjoying one another’s company.

“We are very excited to be working with them,” MassageLuXe Fort Myers Owner Cynthia Graf said of the SWFL Military Museum. “We are excited to have this partnership with them. I hope it is something we can keep going.”

On Tuesday, MassageLuXe Fort Myers will offer complimentary chair massages from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the museum, 4820 Leonard St.

Graf said they will offer five- to 10- minute chair massages to help veterans relax because research shows that it provides significant improvements for PTSD. Massages, in conjunction with physicians and psychiatric professionals specializing in PTSD, help veterans learn to relax and be more in the present moment and become more comfortable in their own body, she said.

Massages also help improve chronic pain, immune system deficiencies, stress reduction and relief from anxiety, worry and irritability, she said.

“We know what we are doing can help them when done with traditional therapy as well,” Graf said of traditional psychotherapy and medication. “We want to help them. Share with them. Not everyone is aware that it can provide additional benefits.”

SWFL President Ralph Santillo said they like to offer a variety of services to veterans during the weekly Tuesday lunch.

“We try to do different things on Tuesday without distracting the real purpose of coming to lunch . . . sit around and enjoy each other’s company,” he said.

Santillo said the neck and shoulder massages offered by MassageLuXe Fort Myers will be very appreciated by the veterans.

“When they called and offered that I thought it would be a good addition to that day,” he said. “It will be a good surprise. We are looking forward to it.”

The SWFL Military Museum has offered weekly lunches since they opened the doors. Santillo said the lunches began with five Korean War veterans. Since then, WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans have joined the lunch crowd. On average, 125 to 150 veterans gather for the weekly lunch.

“We give them a good lunch. We put eight to 10 items out every Tuesday,” he said, which includes such dishes as lasagna, pulled pork, fresh vegetables and hot dogs.

The crowd begins filling the museum between 11 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. before Santillo provides a little pep talk, the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer at 11:30 a.m.

“They chow down pretty good. We don’t charge anything. It’s strictly donation if they want to,” he said. “It’s open to all veterans and their families. We encourage all of that. They become part of our family.”

The complimentary massage and lunch kicks off a few festivities for Memorial Day weekend.

One hundred veterans and their spouses will be treated to a picnic lunch before attending a Miracle baseball game Saturday, May 24. Santillo said before the game begins Purple Heart recipients will march out onto the field while Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki reads a proclamation claiming Cape Coral Purple Heart City.

On Memorial Day, SWFL Military Museum will begin a celebration at 1 p.m. He said they will be showing off a 30-foot flag pole that they are putting in the ground with a brand new flag. The Sawicki will read the Cape Coral Purple Heart City again at the celebration.

The celebration will also highlight 50 patriotic banners that are being installed on Cape Coral Parkway light poles. The banners are 2-1/2 feet by 5 feet and showcase soldiers and veterans and their service.

“We want to celebrate the fact that the city is working with us,” Santillo said. “We hope to have 50 of them up by next week.”

The celebration also will include bagpipers, a patriotic band, a dance group, open house, snacks and soda.

The SWFL Military Museum offers a slew of services for veterans.

“We don’t let a veteran leave here without finding some way of relieving whatever problem they have when they walk in the door,” he said, adding that sometimes it is nothing more than a shoulder to cry on. “We can relate to most of the problems, both old and young.”

Santillo said sometimes the need is locating paperwork, or helping them figure out their benefits. Other services include helping veterans with food, clothing, assistance with housing and furnishing a home, as well as helping veterans obtain information for local colleges.

“We are now working on housing. We are trying to get into that field,” Santillo said of providing housing for veterans with affordable mortgage terms and money back in some cases from lenders and Realtors.

Santillo said the SWFL Military Museum does more than just showcase wonderful artifacts.

“We serviced 765 veterans in 2014. That’s a lot for a little group like us,” he said. “We do most of that without a lot of assistance financially.