Floyd Merckle talks little about his service in Vietnam and instead wants the focus turned towards others who served in the war.
“We were pretty good,” he said. “We had air conditioners.”
Merckle, 73, spent 30 years in the Army and served a year in Vietnam with the 8th Radio Research Field Station in Phu Bai.
But when it comes to honoring and serving other veterans, Merckle has always been on the front line. He directed the Veterans Transitional Home in Melbourne for 16 years before retiring several years ago. He is now back helping a new director get established.
This week Merckle is displaying his extensive collection of military firearms and memorabilia at the 28th annual Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion, which runs Thursday through Sunday and is billed as the largest veterans reunion of its kind in the nation.
“I think I get a real kick out of seing World War II vets and Korean vets coming in and saying ‘We had that weapon,’” Merckle said. “It give me a real sense of satisfaction.”
From the M16A2 used in Iraq to rifles dating back to the Civil War, Merckle displays a variety of items at the reunion, including canteens and mess kits and field rations from Japan, Germany and Russia.
The weapons are fastened to plywood walls, along with other military items in display cases, inside a large tent this week at the reunion at Wickham Park in Melbourne.
Merckle said he displays his weapons and other military memorabilia because it brings attention to what the military has accomplished and to the men and women who served.
Near Merckle’s tent will be a trailer, the Vietnam and All Veterans Mobile Museum.
Ask Bill Sauerwine and he will explain about the weapons and other Mobile Museum items he often uses to teach school children about the military.
“Education is the key,” said the Vietnam veteran, “The student should learn about America, Memorial Day. I tell them war is not a movie.”
Sauerwine should know. He spent six month in Vietnam as a platoon sergeant.
Sauerwine said that during the war he feared that the men under his command would make mistakes. The names of three from his unit are listed on the Vietnam Wall and the Traveling Memorial Wall on display at the reunion through Sunday.
“When you make mistakes, you die,” said Sauerwine, who lives at Patrick Air Force Base housing. “I lost three. One of my guys had 26 more days left.”
Sauerwine, 74, spent almost 9 years in the Marine and a little more than 10 in the Army.
Merckle and Sauerwine said they participate in the reunion to help others understand about the military and for the camaraderie.
“Even when I was in the military I was interested in militaria,” Merckle said, who is displaying dozens of weapons and memorabilia. “I like military firearms.”
Merckle, however, said that he will no longer display his items after this reunion because of other obligations and because it take a lot of work to prepare.
“You better come out and look,” he said. “This is going to be the last time.”
Sauerwine said he wants to share with others and reunite old friends and fellow veterans.
“It’s a gathering of brothers,” he said. “It’s not just about Vietnam. It’s remembrance for not just us bit for all veterans.”