Military Heritage Museum
Fishermen's Village
1200 West Retta Esplanade, Unit 48
Punta Gorda, Florida 33950
Mon - Sat: 10am to 6pm
Sun: noon to 5pm
Admission is free

14 April 08 - Military museum receives large artifact donation

What's 25 feet long, 8 1/2 feet wide and 8 feet tall? I'm not going to write what it is, but I invite all readers to come to the parking lot at Fishermen's Village at 1:30 p.m. today for its unveiling. The man who donated this item has done so in honor of his deceased father, a U.S. Army retiree who served in World War II and Korea, and is now buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Please come help us celebrate this acquisition and honor this important veteran.

I met recently with Kathy Burnam, the marketing director at Fishermen's Village, to go over important and relevant-to-the-military (and our museum, of course) dates throughout the year. The one approaching the fastest is Armed Forces Day, which is May 17. We're planning a celebration at the museum from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. This, and other upcoming events, are all listed on our Web site,, under "News from the Front." Anyone who would like to advise/assist us with planning activities for these days is invited to call me at 941-575-9002.

Another activity we are planning is a military movie matinee at the museum on the first and third Wednesday of every month, starting in May. We'll have the movie, popcorn and soda and ask merely for a donation toward the expense of the latter two items. (although more will be graciously accepted.) We'll start at 3 p.m. and go until the movie ends. Call 941-575-9002 earlier in the week before each matinee and we'll tell you what we'll be playing, or check out the bulletin board at the museum.

I wrote before that we would be happy to place on our bulletin board news from veterans' organizations, including their meeting places and times and how to get in touch with them. We will also place news of reunions, which I will also post on our Web site, so e-mail me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with the who, what, when, where and why.

So, here we go: In my last column I referred to an upcoming discussion of the Merchant Marine. Our logo, pictured below, includes seven stars. This logo was designed by the late John Leslie, and I understand that his (and perhaps others') intention was for those stars to represent the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Merchant Marine and Rosie the Riveter (in honor of the working force left at home).

As I wrote before, there has been debate over the flags indicated on the architectural drawings for our new museum to be built at the Charlotte County Airport. These currently include the flag of the U.S. Merchant Marine. I've checked into the status of the Merchant Marine and learned the following:

The U.S. Merchant Marine falls under the U.S. Transportation Command, and specifically the Military Sealift Command, which is a component of the U.S. Navy. It is not one of the U.S. uniformed services. However, according to the Merchant Marine Act of 1936: "It is necessary for the national defense and development of its foreign and domestic commerce that the United States shall have a merchant marine ... capable of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency."

Indeed, some Merchant Marines who were active during WWII did receive U.S. veteran status. According to a section on the Coast Guard site (, "On Jan. 19, 1988, the Secretary of the Air Force, Edward C. Aldridge Jr., determined that the service of the 'American Merchant Marine in Oceangoing Service during the Period of Armed Conflict, Dec. 7, 1941, to Aug. 15, 1945,' shall be considered 'active duty' under the provisions of Public Law 95-202 for the purposes of laws administered by the Veterans Administration." This length of time was extended when, "On Veterans Day, 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-368. A provision of this law states that service during the period, Aug. 16, 1945, to Dec. 31, 1946, shall be considered active duty for the purpose of eligibility for certain limited veterans benefits." (If you feel that you deserve veteran status, go to the Web site listed above to find out how to apply.)

The determination of whether to include a Merchant Marine flag has not yet been made. If you'd like to weigh in on the subject, e-mail your opinion to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

I can't end this column (or probably future columns) without a plug from administrative assistant Ann Schultz, who is also in charge of our gift shop and has been buying lots of new items. Come in and see what we have to offer. If we don't have something you want, she can probably order it for you.

Kim Lovejoy is the executive director of the Military Heritage & Aviation Museum, located in Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information about the museum, call 941-575-9002, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit