SARASOTA, Fla. - Patriot Plaza, a ceremonial amphitheater at Sarasota National Ceremony with room to seat 2,800 guests, officially opened to the public Saturday morning. The dedication ceremony was four years in the making and paid tribute to the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families. The $12 million venue was a gift to the VA'a National Cemetery Administration from the Patterson Foundation.
Patterson Foundation President Debra Jacobs said, “This is here to serve as an example of how philanthropy can partner with a bureaucracy to create imaginative excellence that has a mission.”
That mission is to honor veterans, inspire patriotism and embrace freedom. Many veterans participated on various committees over the years to help bring a national cemetery to the Suncoast and build Patriot Plaza.
“I've been here since before this thing was built,” said WWII and Pearl Harbor survivor, retired Navy Captain Bob O'Neill. “To see things go up like this is really fascinating because we can do a lot of things we couldn't do in any other cemetery.”
“It is a national shrine and the citizens, especially the veterans of this area deserve to be honored in a national shrine such as this,” said retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Lee Kichen.
“We've been working on the national cemetery and acquiring the land and building the facilities. This is the gigantic icing on the cake for our veterans and they deserve it no question about it,” added Congressman Vern Buchanan.
The amphitheater is surrounded by markers containing photographs that celebrates military life.
“The Patterson Foundation's contribution of the pavilion catches your eye but it is the photographs that catches your heart.” said John Berteau who is the chairman of the Patterson Foundation's Designation Committee.
Jacobs told ABC7 everyone involved in the Patriot Plaza project embraced the opportunity to make it special place.
“While Patriot Plaza is a tribute to all who served our nation, are serving our nation or may serve our nation in the future, everyone who created it is part of this legacy.”
A legacy that will stand proudly for generations to come.
You can watch the entire Patriot Plaza community dedication broadcast right here on ABC7 Saturday, July 5th at 7pm.