By PHYLLIS HODGES
January 10 was a landmark day when the new Veterans Memorial in Sun City Center was dedicated. It is the community’s tribute to former, current and future Sun City Center veterans of the U.S. military—Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and World War II Merchant Marines. About 650 attended the program in the SCC Community Hall and the ribbon-cutting ceremony that followed at the memorial site outside.
Each element of the event demonstrated an appreciation for the sacrifices of our nation’s military men and women and for the community support that made the memorial possible. It was evident in the remarks of every speaker and in the patriotic music of the United Methodist Church of SCC’s choir and Salvina Tannenholz’ rousing renditions of “God Bless the USA” and “America the Beautiful.” All major roles in the program were filled by retired military officers: Master of Ceremonies — Benny Blackshire (Army); Invocation — Rev. Julian Graham (Army); Pledge of Allegiance — Gordon Bassett (Air Force). Speakers included Veterans Memorial Committee Chair Walt Cawein (Air Force) and Keynote Speaker Mike Davis (Marines).
In his remarks, Cawein, who is also president of the Sun City Center Charitable Foundation, sponsor of the memorial, expressed profound thanks to all supporters of the project. He said 876 engraved tribute bricks were purchased and donations ranged from a $40,000 gift from Dallas and Norma Tuthill to $3 a young girl handed him as he manned a display table at a community breakfast. “I believe our residents will agree with me that we have met our initial objective to construct a memorial honoring all veterans and active-duty service personnel who have dedicated or are dedicating their lives to the preservation of the freedoms of this great country,” he said. “Their courage is our greatest triumph, their sacrifice our greatest loss. At the same time, we are promoting community civic pride.”
The memorial fills the space inside the circular driveway of the Community Association’s South Campus facility, 1910 S. Pebble Beach Blvd. It includes seven flags — United States, Florida and each of the five service flags, a 6-foot eagle mounted on black granite, a Belgian Malinois war dog sculpture, a dog tag sculpture and benches. The foundation consists of 8,000 4 inch by 8 inch and 8 inch by 8 inch bricks, with many engraved with names of veterans and area individuals and organizations who supported the project.
Asked if engraved bricks can still be purchased, Cawein responded with a quick, “Yes, definitely. It’s an ongoing project. We will simply replace a plain brick with the engraved brick.” An order form can be found at the website of Sun City Center Charitable Foundation (www.charitablefoundationscc.org). Cawein invites anyone needing help or more information to call him at 813-340-0533 or preferably email him at email@example.com.