President and CEO Debra Jacobs shares Patriot Plaza with the nation

President and CEO Debra Jacobs shares Patriot Plaza with the nation

Posted on November 19, 2014 by The Patterson Foundation

Nearly five years in the making, The Patterson Foundation's Military Initiative encompasses what it means to honor veterans, inspire patriotism and embrace freedom. From the first-ever Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery to the Veterans Legacy Summit bringing support for veterans and their families to life, here's a look at what President and CEO Debra Jacobs shared with national dignitaries Nov. 15, 2014, in Sarasota.


You may know of  The Patterson Foundation from our support of Season of Sharing where annually people in our region contribute funds to provide one-time emergency assistance to families on the verge of homelessness. Or perhaps you know about The Patterson Foundation from our work in creating—an online platform similar to eHarmony where teachers and parents connect with our local cultural organizations. Or perhaps you were one of the 18,000 donors who participated in the Giving Challenge, when our region raised $3 million -- No. 1 out of 115 communities participating.

Well, today you are part of The Patterson Foundation's Veterans Legacy Summit where people from 24 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are learning, sharing, reflecting and appreciating those who have served, are serving or may serve in our nation's armed forces. 

Over the past five years, The Patterson Foundation took an idea, Patriot Plaza, into reality -- thanks to the vision of our board, which is thoughtfully led by Chairman John Berteau; the tireless work of our Initiative Consultant Sandy Beckley -- retired after 40 years with the VA/National Cemetery Administration; Gary Hoyt of Hoyt Architects and Willis Smith Construction managers and sub-contractors who knew they were creating posterity at its best. 

Patriot Plaza was fully funded by The Patterson Foundation and gifted to the National Cemetery Administration at the Community Dedication on June 28 of this year.

Why would The Patterson Foundation create the Veterans Legacy Summit and host another celebration at Patriot Plaza? Patriot Plaza is the result of an unprecedented partnership with the National Cemetery Administration. It has been worth exploring -- not only for the benefit of Sarasota National Cemetery -- but also to demonstrate how "government funds good" and philanthropy funds imaginative excellence

By working with the NCA, we are also elevating one of the most underutilized veterans' benefits...the burial benefit. Only 17 percent of veterans are buried in national cemeteries. Why is it so low? Many veterans are not aware that one doesn't need to die in service but rather one can take advantage of this benefit decades later. Many veterans don't realize the benefit includes their spouse and dependent children. And, sadly, many don't event know there are 131 national cemeteries with an additional nine approved by Congress to come online -- two in Florida; one in Cape Canaveral and another in Tallahassee.

Every day we hear a story that affirms our gift of Patriot Plaza -- whether from a veteran who, after visiting opened up to share his wartime experiences with his family or a family who specifically selected Sarasota National Cemetery for burial after visiting Patriot Plaza.

As we begin this Celebrate Service and Sacrifice ceremony, I must thank every person -- visionary, designer, contractor, volunteer, staff from the National Cemetery Administration and Sarasota National Cemetery and the immensely talented team of The Patterson Foundation who have worked tirelessly and with joy to create Patriot Plaza and the Veterans Legacy Summit -- please stand so we can show our appreciation. 

Yes, thousands have already chosen Sarasota National Cemetery as their eternal resting place and thousands more will do so. But, Sarasota National Cemetery is also for the living. Patriot Plaza is a place for reflection, whether you just buried a family member or your family is on an outing. If not yet felt a goose bump or shed a tear, I encourage you to return on a quieter day and spend some time taking it all in. It will touch your soul. Patriot Plaza is a jewel for our community and a gift to the nation.

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