Southwest Florida’s most treasured museum moved to a new location in April. The Military Heritage Museum’s new home is 900 West Marion Avenue in Punta Gorda, steps away from Fishermen’s Village, where the museum has been for more than a decade.
The new space offers 17,000 square feet, exhibits and artifacts in six galleries, and two floors. The museum tells the story of our U.S. military and history dating to pre-Revolutionary War to today’s wars and conflicts. Although the space is not large enough to display all 30,000+ artifacts representing all military branches, it will still be a treasure trove of patriotic heritage.
"History is about what happened and heritage is about the human experience," Gary P. Butler, the museum’s executive director said when describing the main floor contrasted to the upstairs area. The museum is divided into downstairs where visitors learn about military history and upstairs, where people become part of history in the “Future Force Academy.”
Walk through history in four galleries from the Civil War to today’s Global War on Terror. “Letters from Home” displays letters to and from those serving overseas and the “Hall of Heroes” honors Floridian Medal of Honor recipients.
The Military Heritage Museum partnered with “Witness to War,” an organization dedicated to preserving the oral histories of combat veterans. As of this writing, “Witness to War” has recorded stories from 6,128 combat veterans from around the country who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or other wars. In January, they met with local veterans and recorded their stories which will be screened in the museum. These interviews will be included in the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. Visit www.witnesstowar.org to see and hear from these veterans.
The Gulf Theater, named after a book about the U.S. Army campaigns during the War of 1812, offers seating for 240 and short films will be screened. The P-51 Club is the museum’s social area for groups and is named as a tribute to the Punta Gorda Army Air Field and the North American P-51 Mustang aircraft pilots flew.
Upstairs, museum visitors become part of living history with the “Future Force Academy,” a hands-on experience for visitors of all ages. If you have wanted to fly an F-35 or know what it’s like to maneuver a tank, here’s your chance to either hop into one of the simulators or don a pair of VR goggles. In the “War Room,” participants choose one of eight military battles to reenact.
The most important feature of the Military Heritage Museum are the volunteers. Many are veterans who share their stories making every visit to the museum a new experience.
Visiting and celebrating the new location of the Military Heritage Museum reminds us freedom isn’t free and those who served will always be remembered.
Admission into the main floor is by donation and admission to the upstairs is free to members. A day-membership can be purchased for $10.
Military Heritage Museum
900 West Marion Ave.
Punta Gorda, Fla. 33950
Tel: (941) 575-9002