Iraq memorial dedication delayed at Veterans park in Brandon
BRANDON - A struggle to get big donations from corporate sponsors, coupled with a time crunch, has postponed the dedication of the Iraq veteran’s memorial until December. A team spearheading the Iraq theater of war at Veterans Memorial Park needs volunteers with corporate connections and those with event-planning skills to move the project toward completion. The team had originally planned to dedicate the theater of war on Memorial Day weekend. It will be the second of 12 planned memorials at the park, which is flanked by the Tampa Bypass Canal on U.S. 301. But with rising construction costs and higher-than-expected prices to complete the memorial, organizers decided to postpone the dedication, said Mark Goujon, who is leading the effort.The new date is Dec. 14, a significant date in the Iraq war’s history, he said. Dec. 13 marks 10 years since American soldiers captured Saddam Hussein and Dec. 15 was the official end to the war. “So, we picked the date between those,” Goujon said. “We were originally planning to do the memorial in two phases, anyway, with the first done in time for the dedication,” Goujon said. That would have included a battle cross atop a six-foot base. But with a county budget of $100,000 and the cost of infrastructure coming in at $93,000, there will not be enough to make and display the 196 dog tags that will carry the names of Florida’s fallen soldiers, he said. “The postponement gives us time to come up with options to utilize the $100,000 in the best way,” which may include looking for other vendors to help finish the memorial, he said. “The prices we are getting now are really expensive. We need to re-assess the (mediums) we’ll use, whether it is cement or something else.” Goujon said the committee is still hoping to have the battle cross and the entire infrastructure for the memorial in by May, so when people visit Veterans Park on Memorial Day, they will get to see the progress being made. “We are hoping, with corporate sponsorship, we will be able to get the money we need. Our goal is to raise money through corporate sponsorships by July 31 and get into construction and event-planning mode.” The group still needs $50,000. Up to this point, most of the fundraising has been done at the grassroots level, through individuals and veterans groups. “But we haven’t really made the corporate connection,” Goujon said. To learn more, or to get involved, visit veteransparkhc.com/Iraq, email Goujon at [email protected] or call (813) 410-1114.