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School in Cape Coral house SWFL Military Museum awards and other memorabilia

Posted at 10:37 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 16:31:12-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla — The Lee County School District says the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart awarded to Hector A. Cafferata Jr. are now on temporary display at the school named after him.

The school district says the display will be used as a learning opportunity for students and also will be a part of their Veterans Day activities next month.

The school will house the awards and other memorabilia until the museum finds a new location.

The people who run the Southwest Florida Military Museum in Cape Coral say after Wednesday they'll be closing its doors for good.

Ralph Santillo is the founder and CEO of the museum. He joined the army as a teenager in the 50's.

His dog tag was among the first items in the collection at the museum.

From there, it grew from one donation at a time with veterans and descendants of veterans.

"We've become of the largest military museum in Southwest Florida," Santillo says.

And then COVID-19 came.

"The virus was actually the one, two punch for us," Santillo says.

He says the first punch was the drop-in visitors.

"We closed up in March; we closed up for three months," Santillo says. "By the time we reopened again, our typical traffic, which is about 2000 visitors a month, dropped down to about 200."

The second punch came when they realized the number of visitors they could once count on wasn't coming back.

"We realized we just can't keep continuing it's get harder and harder every month to make it work," Santillo says.

"We don't see a light at the end of the tunnel."

Santillo says they would love to come back another day and have a different message.

He tells FOX 4 that a new approach would be taking the history to the schools with a bus that acts as a mobile museum.

Contact the museum if you would like to donate to that effort, or find out how you can see it one more time before closing this week.