Admission is free. The experience is priceless.
The mission of the Military Heritage Museum is to promote an understanding and respect for the rich military heritage of the United States and the sacrifices made by our country’s veterans, living and dead, emphasizing that freedom is not free.
The Military Heritage Museum started out in a couple of closets – in an American Legion and a VFW post. Then it was discovered that many other veterans’ organizations had more artifacts than they could display, and, on July 18, 2000, the first meeting of the Veterans’ Museum Action Committee was held.
Articles in the paper attracted more veterans; the Charlotte County Veterans’ Council became involved, and the search was on for a suitable site. A lease was negotiated with Fishermen’s Village, Punta Gorda, Florida for a small unit (830 square feet), and a call for volunteers to construct display cases, lay carpet, paint walls, etc., was sent out.
A Museum is Born
The Florida Military Heritage Museum was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2001, and it opened its doors on Veterans’ Day of that same year, although the official grand opening wasn’t held until Pearl Harbor Day, December 7.
The Museum continued its operation in Fishermen’s Village until Hurricane Charley necessitated a change in plans in 2004, and the Museum moved to a slightly larger location on Madrid Boulevard, still in Punta Gorda. The number of visitors declined dramatically in this out-of-the-way location, so the decision was made to move again.
A Return to Its Roots
On October 1, 2007, the Museum returned to Fishermen’s Village, this time to a much larger unit of 2500 square feet. It remains there still and receives approximately 60,000 visitors each year.
What’s in a Name?
In May, 2004, the name was changed to “Military Heritage & Aviation Museum, Inc.” to reflect a favorable agreement with the Charlotte County Airport Authority for a five-acre site upon which a museum was to be built. But the plan proved to be unrealistic, so, in September, 2008, it was abandoned, and the name was changed to the current “Military Heritage Museum, Inc.”
In April, 2013,the Museum leased an additional 2100 square feet on the second floor in Fishermen’s Village, which now houses a conference center (available for rent), a military research library, a reading library, storage, and administrative offices.
Until his death in 2007, the Museum enjoyed the honorary chairmanship of retired Air Force Brigadier General Paul Warfield Tibbets, Jr., best known for being the pilot of the Enola Gay, the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in the history of warfare.
The Museum has a budget of approximately $200,000 per year. It’s funded by a small grant from Charlotte County government, membership fees, donations, proceeds from fundraising events and sales in the gift shop. A generous gift from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation helped them purchase new display cases. The executive director, part-time administrative assistant and part-time curator are the only paid employees, and they are assisted in a major way by more than 75 volunteers.
All images are the property of the Military Heritage Museum, Punta Gorda, Florida and Visual Effects. They can not be duplicated without the written permission of the Military Heritage Museum.