AMVETS post to honor war vet Jessica Lynch
Former POW Jessica Lynch is coming to town this weekend, and AMVETS Post 65 is going to make sure she has a stay worthy of a hero.
The weekend will be filled with receptions, dinners and ceremonies welcoming her to the area, and there will be a special church service and dinner that will climax her visit on Sunday.
Ramon Villanueva, commander of AMVETS Post 65, said the event is meant to be a welcome home celebration for Lynch, who has an aunt who lived in Cape Coral but now resides in Venice.
“We want to show her that Cape Coral is a Purple Heart city and loves all its veterans in and out of the state. And what it is to be loved by the common people who appreciate her service,” Villanueva said.
The visit came about through her aunt’s church, the Branch of Life, and though she has moved, still wanted to do something through her home church.
“Her aunt let Jessica know, Jessica let her people know and Jason Campbell got in touch with me and my co-chair, Suzanne Malecki, who flew in from New Jersey to help with us,” Villanueva said. “We put this together in a very short period of time. It wasn’t easy.”
Wanting to show their appreciation, there will be several activities planned throughout the week, with Cape Coral being the largest one.
It all began on Thursday with her arrival at Southwest Florida International Airport, where the Patriot Guard Riders waited for her as a surprise.
On Friday, she will visit the Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library for an appearance and lunch with the volunteers. People will get a chance to meet her without the need for an RSVP.
Lynch will visit different fraternal veteran organizations throughout Southwest Florida, including American Legion Post 38 in Fort Myers, which will hold a special dinner Friday in her honor.
AMVETS will take her to a sister post in North Port on Saturday for a meet-and-greet before a busy day planned for Sunday, which will be titled “Faith & Freedom Day.”
Lynch will start her day at 9 a.m. at ECO Park where she will place her dog tags on the Iraqi and Afghani war monument in a ceremony that is open to the public.
From there, it’s on to the Elks Lodge, where the Branch of Life Christian Fellowship will hold a non-denominational service at 10. Lynch is expected to speak at the service. Reservations are required.
Pastor Tony Cubello and his group has done things with the military museum in the past, and said they thought it would be great for Lynch to have a place to come to church.
“They asked us to host a prayer service, but when we found out how many people were interested in coming, we decided we needed a bigger place, so we went to the Elks Club,” Cubello said.
At the service, Lynch will again be greeted at the service by the Patriot Guard Riders as well as the Guns & Hoses Pipe and Drum Corps. Cubello said he also expects the Military Order of the Purple Heart, several POWs and Medal of Honor winners to also attend.
Lynch will return to the museum for an RSVP only brunch and an outdoor ceremony that will be open to the public, which will be attended by Mayor Marni Sawicki and other elected officials. Gov. Rick Scott has been invited.
At 4 p.m. she will be the featured guest for an invite-only dinner, where dignitaries from the service organizations will be present.
“This may be one of the biggest gatherings of prisoners of war this area has seen,” Cubello said. “We’re excited about that. I can’t imagine what this lady has been through. She is definitely an American hero.”
Lynch served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S. and Allied Forces. On March 23, Lynch was serving as a unit supply specialist with the 507th Maintenance Company when her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces. Lynch was seriously injured and captured.
U.S. Special Forces rescued Lynch on April 1. It was the first successful rescue of an American POW since Vietnam and the first ever rescue of a woman.