Clearwater veterans memorial became a reality because of community-wide support.
With more than 1.5 million veterans, Florida is known as one of the most veteran-friendly states in the nation—having the third largest population of veterans after California and Texas.
Bill Hutton, Korean War veteran and co-founder of the Clearwater Veterans Alliance, conceived the idea of a memorial about three years ago. Crest Lake Park was chosen given its visibility and access to Gulf to Bay. The Florida Veterans Memorial concept was developed to establish the first cross-generational veteran’s memorial in the State of Florida. In the City of Clearwater there is no other memorial that honors veterans from so many eras, spanning World War II through to present day.
In April 2015, the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance announced it had accumulated sufficient donations to trigger the City of Clearwater’s $150,000 matching grant.
On May 29, 2016, the Florida Veterans Memorial Plaza was inaugurated in honor of Memorial Day. The Memorial is in a prominent location in Crest Lake Park along Gulf to Bay Boulevard where it can be seen by thousands daily who are heading to the beach or downtown.
“The community wants the veterans and their families to know they will be a part of history forever,” said Marc Norton, president of the Tampa Bay Veterans Memorial Foundation. “Without contributions from my friends at the Church of Scientology, today would not have been possible. And I, for one, thank them.”
The ceremony’s speakers included Rob Shaw, the public information officer for the Clearwater Police and Fire Department; Father Bob Swick and Marc Norton from the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance; U.S. Congressman David Jolly; a representative from U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis’ office; State Senator Jeff Brandes; Mayor George Cretekos; City Manager Bill Horne and a couple who had lost their son while on active duty in Iraq.
“This memorial will serve as a living tribute but also as a constant education for the generations that will come long past us,” U.S. Rep. David Jolly said. “This is a great, remarkable day.”