Punta Gorda military museum honors Vietnam War veterans

Published: March 29, 2019 5:26 PM EDT
Updated: March 30, 2019 2:43 PM EDT

The 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War commemoration was celebrated Friday, and many Vietnam veterans call Southwest Florida home. Veterans tell why the observance of the day is important.

The Military Heritage Museum in Punta Gorda honored the brave people who served our country during the Vietnam War Friday.

“Not all of them came home,” Brig. Gen. Anthony “Bud” Bell said. “The ones that came home deserve our respect.”

In 2012, then President Barack Obama proclaimed May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, as the official commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. On March 28, 2016, President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act into law designating March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

More than 500,000 Vietnam veterans call Florida home, and every one of them has a story about their time of service.

“It’s the duty and honor, but it’s really the people you serve with,” Brig. Gen. Fred Buckingham said.

Buckingham, who retired in Charlotte Cont, can share a thing or two about his 30 years in the U.S. Air Force. His most dangerous missions consisted of flying supplies to the marines under siege in Vietnam.

“You’re always proud of what you are doing,” Buckingham said. “You felt like you were doing something worthwhile, for the country. It was just a great.”

Buckingham’s tour of duty in Vietnam went on for two years, but the country didn’t welcome him and all those who served back with open arms.

“That just should’ve not happened to a military person that served his country and put his life on the line,” Buckingham said.

“When they came home, they were not given a proper welcome,” Bell said. “Many of them were booed or had stuff thrown at them.”

Buckingham and Bell both served in Vietnam but didn’t meet until they returned home. The two Charlotte County retirees soon learned their friendship went beyond Florida.

“We were at five or six of the same places at different times, so it was like a big fraternity,” Bell said.

They are sharing their stories with fellow veterans and reflecting on the Vietnam War. They don’t want praise but want everyone in the community to honor our fallen heroes.

“The main thing you need to say is thank you,” Buckingham said.