PUNTA GORDA — A POW who spent five years in captivity will tell his story Friday.

In 1968, Wayne Smith was captured while flying his 90th combat mission in Vietnam.

After over 1,800 days in captivity, he was released during “Operation Homecoming” on March 14, 1973.

Smith plans to give a small snapshot of his story Friday at the Military Heritage Museum in Punta Gorda as part of POW/MIA Recognition Day.

The remembrance ceremony starts at noon with Smith, who lives in Naples, as guest speaker.

The Military Heritage Museum is located at 900 W. Marion Ave. in Punta Gorda.

“Thousands of men and women were forced to live in primitive conditions when held as POWs, and their stories are incredibly powerful to hear,” said Vice Mayor Lynne Matthews.

“Their will to live, their commitment to their country and their sheer determination allowed them to return home to share their stories. Living in unimaginable pain, both emotionally and physically brings tears to your eyes when you hear them speak of their time in captivity. I am sure that having to relive that time in their lives is very painful, but hopefully it helps them heal as well,” Matthews said.

The city of Punta Gorda has a large population of former military service members, Matthews said.

“We should all be forever grateful to all of them for their service,” Matthews said. “The Military Heritage Museum in Punta Gorda honors all who served to protect our freedom and we are blessed to have this museum in our community.

“I am honored to serve on the board of this museum, and to share it with everyone in this community. Everyone should take the time to visit and we should thank every veteran we see, for their service and love for our country.”

For more information or reservations, visit militaryheritagemuseum.org or call 941-575-9002.


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