A local veteran’s legacy lives on in downtown Cape Coral at Billy’s Pub.
Billy Brennan was post commander of Harney Point V.F.W Post 8463. He earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam and served two tours.
“He was all about veterans,” said Mary Jane, Billy’s wife.
He came to Cape Coral from Boston, but V.F.W Post 8463 was home for him and his wife.
Mary Jane said on their first date, they did a puzzle and that showed how calm he was.
“We have a great story. We were together in 1971. We broke up for 35 years,” Mary Jane said. “He would always ask me back, but I’d tell no.”
Finally, she caved, and the two married in 2007.
“I couldn’t have been happier because I loved him my whole life. Even though I married, he was the guy I loved,” Mary Jane said.
As post commander, Billy fought for every veteran he met.
“He was a good man, a little crazy. But it was crazy when you come back from war, you know,” said Henry Moscoone, Billy’s friend.
Billy’s last battle came in 2020 with COVID-19.
“He had open heart surgery and he never got better. And once he got COVID-19, that was it. But he was so excited for this,” Mary Jane said.
Billy’s Pub is now open at the V.F.W. with an open-air, open-door policy for younger veterans searching for a friend like Billy Brennan. It is in downtown Cape Coral across from the Dixie Roadhouse.
“He had this vision that you see behind me that we started and we lost Billy due to the pandemic,” said Bob Niemann, senior vice president of V.F.W Post 8463. “The brothers came together and saw his vision, saw his vision through.”
Niemann said the attitude of us older guys, “Vietnam boys,” is there will never be another generation left behind ever.
“And we carried that through the rest of our lives. Billy believed in that. And that’s a true story,” Niemann said.
Now, Billy’s dream for Post 8463 is Commander Ivo Moreno’s mission.
“When we talk to them, we can help them with their Veteran Affairs cases, we can bring their families here and help them have some fun, you know, like play games. We do volunteering in our communities. So we keep busy, which is exactly what we need,” Moreno said.
From Vietnam to Afghanistan, the soldier’s creed remains “never leave a fallen comrade behind.”
“Never happen again,” Niemann said. “Not on our watch anyway,”
More U.S service members served in Afghanistan than in all other U.S involved conflicts combined.
More than half served multiple tours and adjusting to life after war isn’t easy.
If you’d like to volunteer with the V.F.W or get involved as a veteran yourself visit V.F.W 8463.
If you are a veteran in crisis, call the Veterans Crisis Line. Dial 988 then press 1 or text 838255.
If you are struggling or if you know a loved one who is in trouble, there is help and you are not alone. There is free and immediate support available 24/7. Below is a list of important resources:
In An Emergency
If you or a loved one is in immediate danger call 911. It is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for an officer trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.
Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741
Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.
National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233)
Trained expert advocates are available 24/7 to provide confidential support to anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking resources and information. Help is available in Spanish and other languages.
National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673)
Connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that offers access to a range of free services. Crisis chat support is available at Online Hotline. Free help, 24/7.
Below are mental health resources available to Southwest Floridians at the national and local level.
David Lawrence Center (Collier County)
SalusCare (Lee County)
(NAMI) National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County
(NAMI) National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry Counties
The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers
Collier County Mental Health Court
Lee County Mental Health Court
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)
Local veterans resource: Home Base SWFL