It’s Time For a Memorial On FMB


(By Kim Ryan) Forest “Butch” Critser wears many hats. One of them is as a proud the Vietnam Vet, and for the last four years Forest has been doing everything in his power to get a War Memorial or Veteran’s tribute erected on Fort Myers Beach. He believes many people would like to show their appreciation and honor the brave men and women who have fought for the freedom we all get to exercise.

The idea for a War Memorial or tribute has been discussed for many years but has yet to come to fruition. Butch got involved 4 years ago getting a seat on the Fort Myers Beach Community Resource Action Board, also known as CRAB. He said he joined the board after an influential person in town approached him when he has his Veterans hat on. “That person said to me we don’t have anything for our Veterans, you should spirit an idea.”

Critser continued to push hoping to get a Memorial somewhere on Fort Myers Beach. Then during a CRAB meeting, in May of 2018, Vice Mayor Joanne Shamp said the Town Council gave CRAB an assignment to create concepts for something at Bayfront Square. Butch suggested a Veteran’s Memorial with a flag and a light. The Council then directed CRAB to be creative without going too deep and come back with some ideas for the Town Council to discuss.

Over the next 20 months ideas were developed, pictures were presented, and on February 11, 2020 CRAB voted unanimously to have Mr. Critser attend a Council meeting to address the funding and ask the Council to include the Memorial in one of the three Bayside Park designs. He did that on February 18, 2020.

Unfortunately, the Memorial is again on the back-burner because the Bayfront Park project is on hold until further notice. Residents argued the building design was way too big and blocked the view of the water. They felt they were not given any time to provide input and the Town Council put the entire project on hold.

Critser says he’d would like this to be on the front burner and become a focal point of the town. “We have an opportunity here and a valuable piece of land where we can build a tribute to veterans. It will attract people, including veterans, from all over.”.

Critser says he started this project four years ago and he understands government runs slow but he hopes to see the memorial in his lifetime. “My goal is to see a memorial and to have it dedicated to Mayor Ray Murphy’s father, a WWII veteran and lives here on the island.”

When asked about funding Crister believes that if the memorial was erected on its own and not included in a larger project, there would be enough private support.

Most importantly, Critser says, we’ll be giving back to our community, honoring those who helped formed Fort Myers Beach. “During WWII Page Field was very active with military. They would come down to the beach. They built cabanas on the beach for the troops to come down for R&R. That was how a lot of this town evolved during the 40’s.”

The future generation is learning from us. I have kids of all ages comment on my Vietnam hat and thank me for my service, as well as other vets who come up to me and say “welcome home.” That really means a lot. They younger generation recognizes what we went through. They’ve heard how we were treated when we came home. This tribute would be something good for everyone, including the businesses, something positive that’s non-political. It’s not Democrat, Republican, for or against I would like to see the camaraderie of the town, bringing people together, to celebrate the heritage of our town.”



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