Fallen war hero from Cape Coral honored
Robert Simpson said he didn’t know if he was going to be able to make it through the ceremony without tears.
But there were many who did not as hundreds of well wishers, dignitaries and family members came together at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers Thursday to honor the service and sacrifice of the late Capt. Daniel William Eggers with a luncheon, music and an original portrait made in his honor.
Simpson, president and CEO of LeeSars, which sponsored the event, said he was inspired after he attended a medical staff meeting last year on the West Coast and saw a similar presentation in which a portrait was presented of a set of twins lost in combat.
“I was so moved that I wondered if there was a family in Southwest Florida that wanted that kind of recognition,” said Simpson, a Vietnam veteran. “I searched out the area and found the Eggers and they were wonderful people and were excited to have this done.”
Simpson said not every family is ready, as their pain is still too raw. But the Eggers, though many of them cried throughout the presentation, were grateful for the recognition.
Eggers, who came to Cape Coral with his family when he was in middle school and graduated from Cape Coral High, was killed in action in Afghanistan during his second tour of duty when his Humvee struck a land mine.
In his honor, a camp in Afghanistan was named for Camp Eggers for him in 2005.
Phil Taylor, artist and founder of The American Fallen Soldiers Project, has done more than 200 portraits of various fallen military personnel in the last decade. He said the parents and family often don’t get to verify their loved one’s death, and this helps provide some closure and restoration.
“There’s something very personal about the fact you can share DNA. You hug them, give them a kiss, and embrace them in a moment of restoration,” Taylor said. “The family, in their own words, say ‘My son’s home. Their presence is back in the house.'”
A short opening ceremony featured a proclamation from Cape Coral City Councilmember Jim Burch, making Thursday Capt. Daniel William Eggers Day in the city.
After lunch, vocal group In Harmony presented a musical number before Simpson presented a short film on the life of Daniel Eggers.
Taylor came out and presented the large Eggers contingent with the portrait, a dark illustration of Eggers. He is depicted in black and white with a full colored flag in the background. The only item of color on Eggers was the badge on his Green Beret.
Bill Eggers said he didn’t want to say anything, but felt compelled to try.
“They say a soldier doesn’t die until they’re forgotten. This community has really not forgotten him at all,” Eggers said. “Having a huge camp named in his honor was an honor.”
He added that he couldn’t wait for the Super Bowl or for the ball to drop on New Year’s Eve because when they showed the soldiers, they would show Camp Eggers at the bottom of the screen.
“It’s not like a parent dying. It’s a child. When you have a soldier pass with a community like this. You wake up and think of Danny,” Eggers said.
Many of those in attendance were military dignitaries, members of the Cape Coral High School ROTC and numerous first responders.
“It was fantastic in paying tribute to Eggers. I’ve been to tributes, but nothing this large. The depiction of Eggers looks great,” said Jack Wagner, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Ralph Santillo was also moved, especially since he has an exhibit of Capt. Eggers at the Southwest Florida Military Museum, which he founded.
The tribute was built by Eggers’ father.
“I cried through the whole thing. What a tribute to our local boy. And I hope people will come see his display at the museum,” Santillo said. “We’re never going to forget him.”