Honoring Our Veterans in Merritt Island Florida

Minuteman statue and cannon at Veterans Memorial Park
Merritt Island Veterans’ Memorial Park
Veterans Memorial with military jeep in the background
Monuments and Motorcars

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.

Eagle memorial statue with military helicopter in the background
The Eagle and the Minuteman

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.

U.S. army tank
Tactical Tanks

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.

U.S. Navy aircraft
Awesome Aircraft

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).

Memorial to the dogs who have served our military
Dutiful Dogs

Canine Companions

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).

U.S. Army jeep
Reliable Transportation

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.

Entrance to the museum at Veterans Memorial Park with military helicopter
Veterans’ Memorial Center Museum

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

Living in the Nation’s Capital

Washington DC Capitol building with U.S, flag
The Capitol Building

Moving to D.C.

Living in the Nation’s Capital is an adventure. It all started when I moved to Washington D.C. in August, 2018 for school. Before that, I had visited D.C. a handful of times, mostly on school trips. On those school trips we visited the museums, the White House, and the Capitol. It was Normal fifth grade stuff. And while the monuments and museums are certainly part of the experience of living in D.C., they fade into the background of everyday life when you become a resident here.

What were incredibly special places for me as a fifth grader became places where I need to fight my way through hordes of tourists and school field trip groups to get to ultimate frisbee practice. Because the history of the United States is so prevalent and visible here, it is easy to take it for granted.

The Normalization of Politics

At least three times a week my commute takes me past the iconic Lincoln Memorial. My university ultimate frisbee team practices on the National Mall next to the renowned Reflecting Pool. A few weeks ago, HBO shut down part of Virginia Avenue near my apartment because they were filming a show about Watergate. And within a few blocks of my apartment are the Embassies of Egypt, Argentina, Spain, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, and Qatar. The International Monetary Fund and the State Department are a five-minute walk. I and many people I know have interned in some capacity for the Federal Government. Election night watch parties are a common occurrence, even in off years.

Breathing Rarified Air

I lived across the street from Kamala Harris before she was elected Vice President. I saw Elizabeth Warren jogging on the Mall with her dog. This became a normal part of life. Waiting for the Presidential motorcade to pass is more noteworthy for being an annoyance than for possibly getting to see Joe Biden. D.C. is a different city for the people who live here. Politicians are no longer mythical figures on T.V. They are your neighbors.

Catch a Museum

After living amidst the buzz, the Federal Government stops being exciting. So, we have to seek other sources of entertainment. There are many Smithsonian museums devoid of throngs of fifth graders. The Renwick Gallery is my favorite. It has a gallery of rotating exhibits featuring work from younger, less established artists. Another good one is the Hirshhorn. It can get crowded, but you generally won’t see any field trip groups while you are there. The Hirshhorn holds the permanent collection of Joseph Hirshhorn in addition to rotating modern art exhibits. All the Smithsonian museums are completely free to access. They have been free since 1846. However, some museums, like the African American History Museum, require you to reserve a free ticket.

D.C. Sports

It could be argued Washington sports teams have a reputation for being bad, at least recently… Sometimes the Nationals’ World Series win in 2019 and Capitals’ Stanley Cup win in 2018 seem like distant memories. Fortunately, this is reflected in D.C. team ticket prices. Wizards, Nationals, and D.C. United tickets are all pretty cheap. In addition, most of the stadiums are super easy to get to and in great neighborhoods. Capital One Arena, where the Wizards and Capitals play, is in the middle of Chinatown, and Nat’s Park and Audi Field are in Navy Yard. Chinatown has a bunch of great Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, such as Pho 88, as well as bars like Jackpot. On game days Navy Yard comes alive with fans flocking to places like Dacha Beer Garden and Swizzler. What used to be one of the rougher parts of town, the Navy Yard is now one of the hottest areas in D.C. with great restaurants and high-end condos.

A Night Out

Adams Morgan has been the place for young counterculture people since before my parents lived in D.C. twenty-five years ago. It is still host to many great bars and restaurants. Colombia Station has live Jazz music and Jumbo Slice Pizza has slices bigger than your head. All the bars turn into clubs after 10 p.m., so plan your trip accordingly. NOMA and the H St. corridor are home to some great restaurants like The Big Board, but walking around the neighborhood is not as pleasant at night because H St. can get pretty busy.

Brunch on the Waterfront

After a night of partying, walking around Georgetown is a great way to clear your head. If you are hungry, the many brunch spots, like Call Your Mother, are a great way to wait in line for a breakfast sandwich that is totally worth the thirty-minute wait. If you order online ahead of time you can reduce the wait time. You can take your sandwich to the Georgetown Waterfront where people spread out blankets and watch the activity on the Potomac River while listening to music or reading. Alternatively, you can walk through the residential part of Georgetown where there are beautiful old houses you can fantasize about owning.

Living in the Nation’s Capital

One of my favorite memories of D.C. is of walking through Georgetown. It was the morning of a warm fall day but the air hadn’t quite heated up yet. The leaves had already changed color and were beginning to fall off the trees in a fiery-shaded flurry. It had rained the night before, so everything smelled like wet leaves. Most people hadn’t started their day yet and it was quiet. I remember standing in the brilliant sun, as a breeze shook some dewy leaves from a tree across the street, just thinking. Sometimes our Nation’s Capital is at its best when you retreat from the craziness of the tourist crowds and political stage and experience D.C.’s less-traveled neighborhoods. If you are visiting, I hope you’ll take some time to explore my D.C.

Ready to slow down from the excitement of the city? Check out our blog post on Smoky Mountains National Park here!

by Ben Forest

*Note: this article is not sponsored by any of the businesses mentioned.