My mom said to me, "There's going to be a national cemetery coming to Sarasota. Let's figure out how to move George there when it opens!"
Ok, I thought. But how do we do that?
It was winter 2008, and I made some inquiries, got the paperwork in, and put my dad on the list to be moved from his resting place in a private cemetery in Port Charlotte, Florida. In January 2009, dad was respectfully moved by the Veterans Administration to Sarasota National Cemetery and was one of the very first to be buried there. He's in the first section that opened—in the first row, the first gravesite. He would have liked knowing that.
The grounds of Sarasota National Cemetery were sparse during those early years. Gradually grass and trees sprouted up, and waterfowl and other creatures made their home around the ponds and grounds.
Then one day in 2012, a construction crew arrived and began building something called Patriot Plaza.
Mom and I watched it slowly develop into this spectacular outdoor art museum and amphitheater. We could see it clearly from dad's gravesite—he rests directly across from the front entrance of the plaza. He would have liked the view.
At the time, I was the advancement director for the Sarasota Military Academy and was invited by The Patterson Foundation to be a part of the dedication of Patriot Plaza. That was in 2014—it was a delight to participate in the Legacy of Valor activities during those months leading up to the event. I met so many wonderful people who love our country and respect our veterans. Many of those friendships remain in place today.
But who would have thought that those early days of Patriot Plaza would one day evolve into an invitation to join The Patterson Foundation's team? Certainly not me. But isn't that the way some of our most joyful and memorable opportunities in life transpire—unexpectedly.
And that's what Patriot Plaza has been for me and our community—an unexpected blessing that encourages us to reflect upon and appreciate the quiet commitments made in the hearts of men and women across our magnificent land—people who choose to serve, protecting liberty and freedom for the rest of us.
In 2019, just a few months before mom took to her heavenly sleep, we sat together in Patriot Plaza. "Vicki, this will be a beautiful spot to rest one day alongside your dad. I know you'll continue to enjoy coming here just as I have all of these years."
She was right. I will continue to visit Sarasota National Cemetery but with an additional purpose. I now have the privilege to help ensure that Patriot Plaza remains the peaceful, edifying, and respectful space it is for all who come to enjoy.