Two New Facilities Highlight County's Commitment to Veterans
Veterans, guests, and Hillsborough County officials gathered on Dec. 7 to dedicate two additions to the Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum: the Veterans Resource Center and the World War II memorial.
"It's appropriate for us to make these dedications on the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor," said retired Army Maj. Gen. James Dozier, a guest speaker.
"We still live in a very dangerous world," he said, referencing a lesson learned during World War II that resonates today: "Leadership and preparedness are everything."
The Veterans Resource Center is a one-stop shop of services for local veterans, who number more than 98,300 in Hillsborough County, the largest veteran population among Florida's 67 counties. The WWII memorial honors those who participated in that global conflict, including 510 service members from Hillsborough County who died in the war.
The two-part dedication's peaceful setting contrasted sharply with recollections of wars and other military actions commemorated at the park and museum at 3602 U.S. Highway 301 N. The facility salutes U.S. servicemen and servicewomen of all eras, and has memorials to veterans from the Seminole Wars through the ongoing War in Afghanistan. There also are memorials to Purple Heart recipients, POW/MIA forces, and war dogs, among other exhibits.
Retired U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Richard Heridia attended the Dec. 7 dedications. He plans to take advantage of services available at the Veterans Resource Center, but he came to the event primarily to honor the memory of his uncle, Anthony Perille, who was at Pearl Harbor with the Navy when the Japanese attacked in 1941.
Richard learned of his uncle's involvement after he died. "He never talked about it," Richard says.
The Veterans Resource Center is the new home of the County's Consumer & Veterans Services. The 8,000-square-foot building has a multipurpose room for training and events, and is distinguished by its facade with colorful depictions of service ribbons from all branches of the U.S. military. Funding for the $2.2 million facility included $1.9 million in grants from Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity.
The WWII memorial aims to capture the immensity of the conflict, the deadliest war in human history, and to honor participants who died in the struggle.
Ray Chambers, a long-retired Navy 2nd-class motor machinist who spent 18 days at Iwo Jima, would not have missed the dedication of the WWII memorial. "There's not too many WWII veterans left," he said. "All my buddies that were in the war are gone."