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Harney Point VFW celebrates 50th anniversary

By Staff | Apr 6, 2016

Considering that Cape Coral is still a very young city, anything that has lasted 50 years here is an impressive accomplishment.

The Harney Point VFW Post 8463 has reached that milestone. On Saturday, the group celebrated its 50-year anniversary at the downtown post.

If anyone was expecting a glitzy, star-spangled event, they would have been surprised. Instead, it was a low-key, informal and rather brief celebration with speakers who talked of the importance of the VFW and the services it provides to its members rather than anything self-congratulatory.

They didn’t even have a cake.

That’s quite all right with post commander John Truzzolino, as the idea was to feature what the VFW does, rather than what it did; to look ahead for the next 50 years, not look back.

“Many of the people who helped make the post what it is are gone now. We have about two or three World War II veterans on our roster and we believe that all the charter members are deceased,” Truzzolino said, who is one of the longest active members. He joined in 1971 after returning from Vietnam, but didn’t get fully involved for years.

The event was celebrated this weekend instead of the true anniversary on March 26, as it was too close to Easter.

The celebration kicked off Friday with live music and featured news clippings and other photos that highlighted the 50 years of the Harney Point VFW. Many of the clippings came from the Cape Coral Breeze, which was a huge supporter before the post was chartered.

Those pictures were put into a video photo albums, which were given to members on disc.

Among the speakers during the 20-minute, members-only ceremony was Ken Corr, a past commander who said the milestone is not just a celebration of the post, but for the entire VFW.

“The world back then was different, and not just there being fast food, but in our way of life. We are the same. We help those who served and they are the ones who formed this post together,” Corr said.

Tony Mihalovich, past commander, said he was 18 when the post was chartered and didn’t understand the importance of such a group until he came home from the service himself.

“That’s when I understood the sacrifice it takes to fight for country, to give your lives and leave widows and orphans,” Mihalovich said. “But we don’t talk about atrocities, but brotherhood. We don’t talk about the last 50 years, but the next 50 years.”

Following the ceremony, there was an open buffet luncheon with hot dogs, brats and burgers, with many members bringing side dishes.

The post officially began March 26, 1966, with 56 charter members, with ground broken for its building in September of the following year.

The building, which now serves as the canteen, was dedicated in March 1968 with the current addition, with a dining hall and kitchen, built in 1973.

Among the highlights included a visit from then-President Gerald Ford in 1976 and a drive-by from presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The post was also instrumental in stocking the Cape Coral High School library, without which the school would not have been accredited, and creating Four Freedoms Park.

Mostly, it’s known for helping countless veterans.

When you see some of the post’s earliest pictures of their outdoor ceremonies, it’s almost like they’re out in the middle of nowhere. Truzzolino said it was those volunteers who were the backbone of the organization, without which there would be no VFW.

“You could see they volunteered their time. They poured concrete, laid the cinderblocks, and the canteen was the post back then,” Truzzolino said.

At its peak, Harney Point had about 1,700 members. Today, there are about 700, many of them transfers from other states, and many of them Vietnam veterans, Truzzolino said, as the Korean veterans are in their 80s now.