Patriot Plaza (PP), located in the heart of Sarasota National Cemetery (SNC), is a place where stories of service and sacrifice are captured in the commissioned art and architecture. This outdoor amphitheater is a place where families and our community come to honor veterans – past, current, future – and the families who remain. As the first space of its kind in any national cemetery across the country, PP was created through a unique public-private partnership between The Patterson Foundation (TPF) and the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs – National Cemetery Administration. Visitors are encouraged, and events attract many, but events must meet three criteria: be free of cost to attend, open to the public, and in keeping with the dignity of a national cemetery.
Throughout 2017, there were numerous activities, many new and unique. On January 26th, the first-ever committal service was held at PP to give a well-deserved salute to the life of Brigadier General, Frank Laudano, Commandant of Sarasota Military Academy (SMA). More than 600 members of the community, representatives from different military organizations, SMA High School students, SMA Prep School students, faculty, and family attended the service. On March 29th and April 6th, the first Wreath Placement Ceremonies took place at PP honoring Vietnam War Veterans Day and the WWI Centennial.
On June 12th, 45 eighth-grade Social Studies teachers from Sarasota County Schools attended the first Civics Boot Camp. The teachers experienced the very same tour given to their students in the eighth-grade Civics class as part of a learning experience that brought history and patriotism alive through stories that focused on stories of patriotism and inspiration.
During the 2017/2018 school year, chartered buses brought the teachers and their 44 eighth-grade Civics classes to PP as well as a scientific learning experience at Twin Lakes Park as a part of the first combined EdExploreSRQ trial. This combined program was such a success that it will continue for all Sarasota County eighth-grade Civics students during the 2018/2019 school year. TPF provided the buses so that all schools could attend both free experiences regardless of their ability to pay for transportation.
The events and tours at PP brought an estimated 10,201 visitors to both PP and SNC during 2017. The following chart shows the breakdown for each category of tours – public, group, eighth-grade Civic, other school groups, and events.
Thank you to the PP Guides who are highly talented and caring SNC Volunteers serving as PP Guides, and to the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County for coordinating PP Guides and scheduling tours. PP Guides are veterans or family members of veterans who volunteer their time to lead tours and answer questions at events.
To schedule tours contact Education@sarasotaarts.org or call 941-365-5118 x301. To inquire about planning an event, contact the cemetery director at John.Rosentrater@va.gov or call 941-922-7200.