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VFW post marks its golden anniversary

By Staff | Mar 31, 2016

VFW Post 8463 celebrates its 50th anniversary in Cape Coral this weekend with two days of live music, dining and reminiscing.

Because of Easter weekend, the post delayed the celebration of its actual anniversary – March 26 – until this Saturday. The fun starts on Friday with live music from 5 p.m. on and plenty of memorabilia and scrapbooks to view.

After a short formal ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, member veterans can enjoy a buffet of hamburgers, hot dogs, brats (bring a side dish to share), more live music and more reminiscing. An interesting video montage of VFW activities through the years will run continuously both days.

The Ladies Auxiliary celebrates its 50th anniversary in July.

“Due to the capacity of the building at 220 we can’t open it up to the general public,” said post quartermaster Ken Astling. “Our charter was signed by 56 members in 1966 and we built this building a year or so later on donated land.”

The Harney Point VFW Post membership peaked several years ago at 1,700 when a few World War I vets were still around. Even World War II veterans are becoming scarce at the post, but the membership runs the full range of veterans through Iraq and Afghanistan. Dues-paying members have included generals and one Medal of Honor recipient.

“We are recognized by the city as the oldest fraternal organization in Cape Coral,” said Astling. “This building is recognized as a city landmark, though not on the national registry. We’ve made a couple of additions to it over the years.”

The VFW Post has served as the center of activity throughout the years with many other civic organizations and non-profits renting the facility for meetings and events.

“The VFW was the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night for dances and entertainment,” said canteen manager Jami Manning. “Years ago, everything happened here.”

Post 8463 is known for its Honor Guard, which has served at countless funerals as well as participated in Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations.

“We have many multigenerational families involved in this VFW,” said Manning. “A lot of us grew up in VFWs elsewhere, but sadly that’s not so much the case nowadays. We’re starting to see more women join the VFW, but we don’t know exactly why. They can join VFW or the Ladies Auxiliary, or both.”

“As veterans we hope there comes a day when there is no need for Veterans of Foreign Wars,” said Adling.

Needless to say, the post and its membership is proud of its history of service to the community. When Cape Coral first incorporated it had a limited budget, so the veterans volunteered to help get a couple of the city’s parks started with their labor. Everything at the VFW is about volunteers, from the managers to the bartenders.

“Four Freedoms Park was just a picnic table back then,” said Adling. “We’ve done things for the youth, for the homeless and for vets. We try to involve everyone, not just vets.”

When Cape High was built no books were ordered for the library, but the VFW and other organizations held book drives to stock the shelves.

The post, located at 4709 SE 11th Place, is not far from the foot of the Cape Coral Bridge, which is known as Harney Point. An historical plaque at the bridge notes the history behind it.

Col. William S. Harney was one of 14 soldiers that escaped an attack during what has come to be called the American-Indian Wars on July 23, 1839. A year later, Harney returned with 90 men to conquer the Native American tribe and its leader, Chief Chekaika.

Today’s Del Prado Boulevard originally was named Harney Point Road.