Oscar Cunningham was transported back to Vietnam to his days as a 17-year-old soldier fighting for his country.
Cunningham arrived at the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History Saturday for the Vietnam War Veterans Day event not sure what to expect. When he saw the displays, watched the films and met fellow Vietnam War Vets, the memories of combat and the abuse he took when he returned came back.
The Vietnam War Veterans Day event at the museum is an event that is long overdue. According to Museum Executive Director Cliff Moffett, the event is held in conjunction with the nation Vietnam Veterans Memorial Day March 29.
Cunningham is grateful for a day to honor him and the thousands of Vietnam Veterans.
“This has brought back so many memories,” Cunning ham said. “I remember coming home in Seattle Washington and getting spat on and being called baby killer and everything else. This is the opposite end of that I really appreciate what they are doing for us with this event.”
Cunningham, 74, of Odessa, knows the number of surviving Vietnam Veterans is dwindling. Right out high school, he went to war. He became a man in a hurry. Many never returned home and many more have passed on.
“I wish more were here to appreciate this,” Cunningham said. “This is an event that shows they didn’t forget about us. I’m glad I got the opportunity to see this.”
Vietnam-era military equipment including a Grumman OV-1 Mohawk military observation and attack aircraft were on display. The plane, on loan to the museum, was designed for battlefield surveillance and light strike capabilities.
Encampments, with vintage equipment, weapons and uniforms, were set up outside surrounded by Jeeps, trucks and other vehicles. Inside the museum, a room dedicated to the Vietnam War, was loaded with items donated to the museum from Vietnam Veterans and their families.
“The Vietnam Veterans deserve this and more,” Moffett said. “We learned our lesson by how these veterans were treated when they returned home. You can protest the government and against the war. But the people who served were doing what they were told to do.
“They need to be welcomed home and thanked.”