There is a hand full of museums in Southwest Florida solely dedicated to the h istory of United States Armed Forces and Military Veterans. And Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library in Cape Coral Florida . is one of them.
When you first walk through the doors, you may get a sense of being in a time machine. Displays are strategically situated around the perimeter to give you a learning lesson of how the United States military made its mark on past wars starting from the American Revolution: War of 1812 all the way through to the Gulf Wars.
The museum, founded in 2009, was created by a group of veterans who wanted a place to meet with other men and women who served in the Armed Forces. “We weren’t considering a museum at the time. It just kind of emerged into a museum” explained museum director Sonya Raymond, who joined the mission in 2010.
With the help of the non-profit organization, Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation , Ralph Santillo, and Stanley Weinberg was able to get the Southwest Florida Military Museum up and running.
The first meeting spot was located in a 1300-square foot storefront off of Del Prado Boulevard in Cape Coral.
By 2012, the founders realized they needed more space for all the artifacts veterans were donating. They ended up relocating into a 34,000-square foot space off of Leonard Street. “When I walked in I thought ‘Oh my goodness how are we going to fill this place,’” Sonia recalled.
Sonya and her team didn’t have any trouble filling the vast space. The museum houses a time capsule for almost every moment in American History. It also has a library collection which includes more than 5,000 non-fiction military books that are divided by wars. “We encourage schools to use our library for military research,” Sonia shared.
In addition, the museum has a large conference room for meetings and a retail store where visitors can purchase t-shirts, hats, and other military memorabilia.
There’s also a functional ‘mess hall’ where veterans, spouses, and friends can catch up on the good old days over a free meal every Tuesday starting at 11:30 am.
Florida has the third largest population of veterans in the United States.
The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs recorded more than 1.5 million veterans over the age of 18 are currently living in the state.
If you or someone you know is a veteran and looking for a place to reminisce about your days serving your country, head on over to the Cape and visit the Southwest Military & Library.