PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - It could become a regional attraction and remembrance of those who gave all in the Vietnam War. Some local Veteran groups are working to give one of the traveling Vietnam Memorial Walls a permanent home in Charlotte County.
The wall and the more than 58,000 names on it mean something to those like Vietnam Veteran Jerry Baumgartner. "I know eight men who died on that wall. It was a privilege to serve with them."
Recent stops to the area by the memorial wall have brought out tens of thousands. One of those walls is retiring. A donation of $250,000 for it is being asked. "The success we had with the wall with the number of Veterans that we know are in this county we thought it might be a very appropriate place for it to have a permanent home."
Upwards of another estimated $150,000 is needed to prepare a site. Kiwanis Veterans Garden in Punta Gorda has been suggested.
Wednesday city council members there voted to support the project and donate the land but opposed spending any city funds. "We were hoping to get a little money up front but that does not look like it is going to happen. It is what it is." Dave Donohew with Charlotte County Veterans Services says local Veteran groups will now work to raise the money on their own. "We don't want it here just for the economics. We want it here to give it a permanent home. We want it here to show all the veterans in Charlotte County and Punta Gorda and even the state of Florida to come visit this wall. This is your wall."
There are more than 160,000 veterans in Charlotte and surrounding counties. Baumgartner says they will now have to do some additional research. "Things are up in the air. Punta Gorda would have been a great place for it. It still might be a great place for it but there are other areas in this county that need to be considered if we go out and get the money."
There currently is not a permanent Vietnam memorial wall anywhere in the state of Florida. "Charlotte County is going to call it home but this is going to belong to all Veterans," says Donohew.
There is still a lot to be figured out. Because of that organizers say they are not yet taking donations.
Enid, Oklahoma is currently installing one of the traveling walls. In two years, that community raised $650,000 to make it happen there.