Behold the Bermuda Triangle butterfly garden created by 3 vets
Three retired veterans combined their shared passion for butterflies and gardening to create a memorial commemorating a longstanding mystery: the fate of Flight 19. The 1945 training mission that flew out of Fort Lauderdale’s World War II naval air station suddenly ended when five Avenger planes and their crews vanished over the legendary tract of the Atlantic Ocean, where some people think alien spacecraft land and ghost ships sail. The friends created a garden, roughly in the famous triangle’s shape, outside the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum, next to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Instead of a fountain or trellis, the centerpiece is a bright blue, poured-concrete silhouette of a TBM Avenger torpedo plane, wings outstretched.
Brendan Doyle, a Vietnam War veteran from Dania Beach, said he and two veteran friends came up with the Bermuda Triangle idea while looking for a new project. As certified master gardeners, they had just finished creating two butterfly havens at the William “Bill” Kling VA Clinic in Sunrise, where they also teach plant classes monthly. The idea is to help take veterans’ minds off war, said Doyle, 69, who struggles with post traumatic stress disorder. “Everything we do is for the vets,” he said. “So we thought, how about another butterfly garden? And we can honor Flight 19.”
John Bloom, the naval air station museum’s director, said he was surprised by the offer and pleased with the results when the garden officially was dedicated in November. “These guys were workers,” he said. “We hope people who come by the museum will enjoy it.” Doyle and his garden co-creators, Errol Simmons and Michael Thomas, received donations of plants and small trees that produce leaves and nectar to attract butterflies. The Broward County chapter of the North American Butterfly Association helped out. Visitors who sit quietly on nearby benches can expect to see zebra longwings, monarchs and gulf fritillary flutter by. “Gardening gives you peace of mind,” said Thomas, 64, of Miami, who served as an Army logistics command sergeant major from 1975 to 2002. “Nature takes away stress.” The garden’s three corners represent the geographic endpoints of the Bermuda Triangle: Bermuda to the northeast, Puerto Rico to the southeast, and South Florida due west. The airplane model is pointed at 91 degrees, the compass heading of the route the Avengers took when they left on the morning of Dec. 5, 1945.
County officials noted the veterans’ efforts. On March 11, the garden is scheduled to receive an Emerald Award from Broward County’s NatureScape program, which promotes outstanding landscaping projects featuring native plants. Besides commemorating Flight 19, the garden also honors Hollywood resident Edgar “Buddy” Galvin, a World War II aerial navigator who was part of a search mission that failed to find Flight 19. The 96-year-old, who volunteers at the museum, came out on a recent Thursday to see how the plants were doing at what’s officially called The Edgar Buddy Galvin Butterfly Garden and Flight 19 Memorial. “It’s lovely to sit here and meditate,” Galvin said. One might think the regular bursts of engine whine from departing jets right next door could be distracting. But not so, he said. “I just take my hearing aids out,” Galvin added, laughing.
The Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum is open from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday-Sunday, 4000 W. Perimeter Road. There is no fee, but donations are requested. The garden is open from dawn to dusk and does not require museum admission. For more information: nasflmuseum.com or 954-359-4400.
Sun-Sentinel: War veterans create garden honoring WWII aviators lost in the Bermuda Triangle