The Importance of Honoring Our Veterans
Honoring our veterans is a tradition that many people do on certain holidays at specific times of the year. But many feel it’s important to include paying homage to those who have served into our routines throughout the year. The start of a new year is a good time to consider these goals and how we can fulfill them. Places like Merritt Island’s Veterans Memorial Park provide an excellent opportunity to relax and reflect on the contribution that our veterans have made in preserving the freedoms of our homeland and those of our allies. Whenever you plan a visit to a park, you may want to consider visiting a veterans’ park such as this one. Consequently, the experience is likely to be very rewarding.
As former President Ronald Reagan has said, “Our hearts and thoughts turn to all the Nation’s veterans. Let us reflect on the great achievements of those whose sacrifices preserved our freedom and our way of life. With a spirit of pride and gratitude, let us recall their heroic accomplishments and thank them for their unselfish devotion to duty.” (reaganlibrary.gov). And specifically to the Marines he remarked, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in this world. The Marines don’t have that problem” (marines.mil). Indeed, the difference veterans have made for our country and in our lives is immense.
Strength and Freedom
Many moving monuments dedicated to our veterans who served in wars from the American Revolutionary War in 1776 to the present are thoughtfully displayed throughout the park. This monument to those who served in the Revolutionary War (pictured above) is “Dedicated to all our patriot ancestors who sacrificed their lives, families and fortunes to secure our freedom.” The monument is topped by the statue of a bald eagle, and a Minuteman is inscribed on the front.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the American Bald Eagle has been the national bird since 1782. Former President John F. Kennedy voiced his appreciation for this choice: “The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America” [va.gov (PDF)]. Given the strength, courage, and dedication to preserving our freedom that our veterans exhibit, the eagle is indeed a fitting symbol for our country and for such a monument.
Tanks for the Memories
The Merritt Island Veterans Park is home to an impressive collection of historic military air and land vehicles. Dwight D. Eisenhower has said, “Guns and tanks and planes are nothing unless there is a solid spirit, a solid heart, and great productiveness behind it” (eisenhowerlibrary.gov). While this is undeniably true, the equipment used by the military has played a vital role in our military history. The park satisfies the nostalgia surrounding this critical equipment that both serves and protects our armed forces.
Many historic vehicles are punctuated around the park, including this M41 Walker Bulldog American light tank (pictured above). The placard informs the visitor of the illustrious history of this vehicle. This impressive tank replaced the M24 Chaffee Tank used in WWII and was used for nine years by South Vietnam. It was produced between 1951-1954 in Cleveland, Ohio by the Cadillac Motor Car Division of General Motors. Further, it houses a crew of four soldiers. These tanks have served worldwide in 30 countries, including engaging T-34s during the Bay of Pigs. All of the air and land vehicles displayed throughout the park give a detailed history that is both educational and fascinating.
Flying for Freedom
In addition to land vehicles, the park houses multiple intriguing aircraft. This A-7E Corsair II Carrier-Based Attack Bomber (pictured above) flew at a maximum speed of 693 miles per hour at sea level. Six wing stations provided a combined maximum load of up to 10,000 lb. of bombs, rockets, or AGMs (air-to-ground). Its tactical range was 490 miles. The crew consisted of a pilot only, and 535 of these aircraft were produced.
The U.S. Navy describes the distinguished history of the A-7E Corsair II: “The A-7E flew its first combat missions over Vietnam in May 1970… Following the end of the Vietnam War, the A-7E remained a mainstay on carrier flight decks, called into combat action throughout the 1980s in Grenada, Lebanon, Libya, and Panama. By the time Navy carriers launched their first strikes into Iraq and Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Storm in January 1991, only two A-7E squadrons remained… It marked the final deployment of the venerable Corsair II, whose beginning and end came in the face of enemy fire.” (history.navy.mil).
Dogs are perhaps not only “man’s best friend,” but also the military’s best friend… According to the Department of Defense, “These are highly skilled warriors, trained by the best to serve alongside them… about 1,600 military working dogs [currently] help keep the nation safe” (defense.gov). This statue is “Dedicated to war dogs and their handlers, past, present, & future, your deeds and sacrifices will always be remembered.”
The front placard reads, “During our nation’s military history, ten of thousands of war dogs served during WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They continue to serve around the world. American war dogs have a legendary history of bravery and courage on foreign fields of battle, saving countless American lives.” Interestingly, according to the U.S. Army, “Every military working dog is an NCO – in tradition at least. Some say the custom was to prevent handlers from mistreating their dogs; hence, a dog is always one rank higher than its handler” (army.mil).
Planning Your Visit
In conclusion, Veterans’ Memorial Center in Merritt Island, Florida is free to visitors, including the park, museum, and library. Operating hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm and Sunday noon to 4:00pm (these hours may change over time or during holidays – please confirm before visiting). Not in the area? There are other parks like this throughout the country. So perhaps there is one near you.
At Global Dimensions, honoring our veterans is of paramount importance to us. Our CEO, Chris Newton, has a distinguished career as a seasoned Chief Intelligence Analyst in the U.S. Army. Many other veterans are currently working at Global Dimensions as well. Read about some of our veteran employees in our blog post “Pride in Our Veterans at Global Dimensions” here. To all who have served, you have our unending gratitude.
by Heather Longfellow