Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The nation's first underwater veterans memorial has officially arrived
CLEARWATER, Fla. — More than 30 divers, including veteran amputees, counted down Monday before plunging into the choppy gulf waters miles off the Pinellas County coast. They were headed toward a dozen concrete soldiers standing in a circle formation 40 feet below.
The Circle of Heroes underwater veteran memorial, which creators call one-of-a-kind, officially opened to the public Monday after about a decade of planning. The six-foot statues and center monument bearing the bronze emblems of five military branches are meant to be a permanent fixture at Veteran's Reef, honoring the armed forces and providing a unique diving experience for tourists and wounded warriors.
"I'm not surprised this came from the Tampa Bay area because we're number one," U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, said at the opening ceremony.
One of the 12 statues that currently make up the Circle of Heroes.(Courtesy of Preston Rudie)
Former Congressman David Jolly's nonprofit, Brighter Future Florida, has led the fundraising to complete the memorial designed by his uncle Heyward Matthews, a professor of oceanography at St. Petersburg College.
Matthews wanted to create a memorial that catered specifically to divers and younger Americans who may not be inclined to go to many veteran memorials otherwise.
Eric Waltz, general manager of The Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater, anticipated a boon in tourism dollars to the area as divers come to experience the new memorial.
He and Matthews also found that many veterans suffering from mental illnesses and physical handicaps have taken to diving as a form of therapy. Various dive shops and nonprofits, including the Arizona-based Deep Sea Valkyries, have already made plans to organize diving sessions for wounded veterans.
"When you descend below the waves you enter a world of peace and tranquility," said Neysa Grzywa, director of business operations for the Arizona nonprofit. "The sounds of chaos are replaced with nothing but your own breath, reminding you that you're alive and not to waste that miracle on the pain."
And for veterans with amputations, diving offers a stronger sense of mobility, she said.
Knowing that the new memorial will serve as a diving destination for the latest generation of veterans made it all the more special for Vietnam Marine combat veteran David Miller, who was at the opening ceremony.
"They didn't have this stuff for us," said Miller, 71.
Monday's watery ribbon-cutting featured a special wreath toss honoring Dave Thomas, 77, a Vietnam Air Force veteran who built the memorial's 4-foot high, 3-ton center monument and who passed away Tuesday before the grand public unveiling.
"It's been a part of his heart for the last three years," said his wife, Rana. "This was something we wanted to see to come to fruition."
Pinellas County provided $50,000 in seed money for the project in 2017 and Brighter Future Florida was able to raise an additional $150,000 in time for the opening this year, a spokesman said.
The memorial itself still needs a dozen more statues to be complete, though since the second group of statues will be custom-made, they will cost more, Matthews said. He hopes the final installations will be made by next summer.
Contact Ileana Najarro at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @IleanaNajarro
©2019 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The FBI is treating the recent shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, as a terrorist attack, several media outlets reported on Sunday.
"We work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism," USA Today quoted FBI Agent Rachel Rojas as saying at a news conference.
WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."
"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.
"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.
The three sailors whose lives were cut short by a gunman at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Friday "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil," said base commander Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella.
Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters were killed in the shooting, the Navy has announced.
The Pentagon’s troop deployment denials means nothing when the White House screams ‘fake news’ all the time
The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.
We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members' use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military's leadership, rather than the individual troops.
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a "clearer view" of the technology "than most people give them credit for."
"That said, I'd give us a 'C-minus' or a 'D' in educating the force on the threat of even technology," Berger said. "Because they view it as two pieces of gear, 'I don't see what the big deal is.'"