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South Florida war veterans reflect on Memorial Day at Boca Raton VFW

World War II veteran Frank Bonfiglio (left) and Vietnam War veteran Mike Day
Posted at 7:47 AM, May 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-27 11:30:12-04

There's a friendship at the Boca Raton VFW that makes this Memorial Day very special.

It took members of the greatest generation to help a Vietnam veteran heal the wounds of war and appreciate this day even more.

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To understand their appreciation for Memorial Day, you first have to understand Frank Bonfiglio and Mike Day‘s path to the VFW in Boca Raton.

“Two of my best friends never came back,” said Bonfiglio.

"(Memorial Day) is to recognize those people who died, who gave their lives for America,” said Day.

Both were drafted into the service -- one in World War II and the other Vietnam.

"I remember getting on a bus when I was 22 years old and not knowing if I’d ever come back. I was very gung-ho though,” said Bonfiglio.

Both returned home with different perspectives about Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day during World War II, Frank Bonfiglio and other service members honored those who lost their lives.
On Memorial Day during World War II, Frank Bonfiglio and other service members honored those who lost their lives.

When you look at Bonfiglio's pictures from the Pacific theater, you immediately see how much this day means to him.

Even during war time, he and his fellow soldiers paid tribute on Memorial Day to the men that didn't make it home. This day has always been special to him.

But for Day, things were very different. To him it was easy to block out military-related holidays.

There was no hero's welcome for many Vietnam War veterans.

"I didn't feel very popular. I had kids throwing rocks at me when I was in uniform," said Day.

Day’s wife divorced him, and he lost his job.

It took years and eventually the Boca Raton VFW helped him mend wounds from war.

Things sunk in when he heard the World War II veterans' stories.

“What a treasure these guys are. They changed my concept of what it was to be a veteran because frankly I wasn’t very proud to be a veteran from Vietnam. Being told over and over again, you’re a baby killer, you’re this, you’re that,” said Day.

Now, Day embraces Memorial Day and keeps it sacred.

"You can’t live in the past but you can sure learn to appreciate it," said Day.

Bonfiglio embraces helping fellow veterans like Day.

“Absolutely, that’s what we’re here for. We have to help each other,” said Bonfiglio.

On Memorial Day, that means so much to the men and women who gave it all for this country.