Visits to Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery evoke stories from both visitors and tour guides.
February 2019 has seen a wide range of groups visiting Patriot Plaza, including business colleagues from out of town, civics class tours, local business representatives enrolled in a Chamber of Commerce Leadership program, and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay's annual community outreach trip that brings veterans and their families from the Hillsborough community each year.It is always interesting to hear the questions asked and the stories shared on these tours:
- Why is the flag at half-mast?
Answer: It is lowered 30 minutes before the first funeral of the day and raised again 30 minutes after the last funeral of the day.
- Is the flag lowered at night?
Answer: No, actually, it remains raised, and a light shines on it through the darkness as required by flag protocol.
Stories that bring Patriot Plaza alive come from tour guides and visiting veterans. Art, which includes photographs from the Civil War through the 21st Century as well as the architecture at Patriot Plaza has a way of bringing out memories that have never been told. Family members tell us they hear more about their loved one’s service in the military than they ever have before, sometimes for the very first time after visiting Patriot Plaza, and tours are always rewarding when the added stories shared are from a firsthand account or by a family member.
A father recently shared that this was not his first visit to Sarasota National Cemetery. He had visited just the week before because his son, who had served in the Air Force, had died unexpectedly. Although his son was no longer in the military when he passed, the family was trying to decide whether to bury him at Sarasota National Cemetery or perhaps at Arlington National Cemetery since he had served in the Washington, D.C. area in the past.
As a Patriot Plaza Guide we never know the level of healing Patriot Plaza can bring, perhaps by listening to a visitor’s story, be it happy or sad, or the soothing touch that the ambiance and art might provide.