By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
It comes to us all — death, that is, and hopefully, a dignified burial.
If you are a veteran or a member of a veteran’s family, preparations for this inevitable day are a must. The American Ideals Foundation of Ruskin is planning a Veterans Info-Expo to present details and answer questions about veterans’ burial benefits. Two speakers from the VA and the National Cemetery Administration in Washington, DC, will be on hand to address questions one should ask prior to the occurrence of death. This free program is open to the public at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 13, at the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet Room.
Many veterans reside in the South Shore area. And, coincidentally, one of the finest national cemeteries was recently established about 10 years ago nearby in Sarasota. The 295-acre Sarasota National Cemetery on S.R. 72 is only 4 miles east of I-75. Although, veterans are not restricted to using this impressive facility, it was established to handle veterans’ needs for the next 50 years. The site includes nearly 18,000 full casket gravesites and crypts, 9,000 in-ground cremains, and 7,200 columbarium niches. Actually, the Sarasota National Cemetery provides for an inspiring tour: There is a 2,800 seat ceremonial amphitheater named “Patriot Plaza,” completed five years ago thanks to the Patterson Foundation of Sarasota. Guided tours of the artwork gracing the Patriot Plaza are every Tuesday at 10 a.m. for individuals, with larger group tours available by calling the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota at 941-365-5118 ext. 301.
The Sarasota National Cemetery is the sixth national cemetery established in Florida and the 127th in the national cemetery system. Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces with an active duty minimum requirement and/or honorably discharged. Other members of the veteran’s family may also be eligible.
One Sun City Center veteran is U.S. Marine veteran Charles “Hutch” Hutchison, living here in SCC with his wife since his retirement as a supervisor at Ft. Logan National Cemetery near Denver. Hutchison will also be on hand at the June 13 event to provide advice and guidance.
“It is my desire to help veterans and their families, even in my own retirement, to be aware and understand where they can find information on burial benefits,” said Hutchison in a recent interview. “Remember www.cem.va.gov as a valuable resource,” he said. Adding “Thank you for your service.”
The sponsor of the Veterans’ Info Expo, the American Ideals Foundation, urges veterans and their families to ask questions now and do not wait until that veteran passes away. The AIF organizers, Mary and Bob Moffa, will talk about details and examples of what to do before that final day comes for the veteran. They will also talk about keeping the veteran’s name and work done in military service alive and honored beyond death.
“We will have a veterans’ honor table,” said Bob Moffa, founder of the AIF. “Anyone can place a picture of a veteran on the table. This is not a fund raising event of any type. If you would like to participate and show how your business can help veterans and their families, contact the Foundation at 813-416-8456 or visit FoundationofAmericanIdeals.org.”
The June 13 event will be filmed and sent all over the U.S. Free snacks and beverages will be provided, as well as presentation of the colors and a special arrangement of “America,” performed by composer pianist Robert Moffa.