The last time Brenda Schwarzkopf visited U.S. Central Command, her husband was retiring from the Army after a long and distinguished career, capped off by having led a multinational effort known as Operation Desert Storm to dislodge Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
On Tuesday afternoon, Schwarzkopf returned for the first time since 1991 to accept an award from Gov. Rick Scott in honor of her late husband, who died at home surrounded by family in December.
"Oh, this is so exciting," she said after receiving the Great Floridian Award from Scott in a 45-minute ceremony attended by several hundred people in the auditorium of Centcom's Joint Operations Center. "I have not been in Centcom since 1991, I guess. I have seen it from the outside. It's very exciting to know all that's going on in here now. Of course, I don't know all."
Scott said he presented the award posthumously to Norman Schwarzkopf for "all that he did in his life and all the things he did after he retired in our great state."
Commanding Centcom was Norman Schwarzkopf's last military position. After retiring, he became a community leader, involved in several charities, including the Children's Home in Tampa and charities dealing with prostate cancer. There is even an elementary school named after him.
Schwarzkopf said that during her husband's 35 years in the Army, the family moved 16 times.
After retiring, "Norm and I had the opportunity to choose any place to call home," Schwarzkopf said. "It did not take long for us to decide to stay right here in the Tampa area."
Norman Schwarzkopf is the 66th Great Floridian Award recipient since its inception in 1981. The first award went to Thomas LeRoy Collins, the state's 33rd governor, and Tim Tebow was the most recent awardee.
General Schwarzkopf was praised by the current Centcom commander, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III, who called his predecessor "a legendary figure in these halls. Indeed, I would argue that very few individuals have had as significant or as lasting an impact as he did."
Brenda Schwarzkopf said that she has yet to see the new Centcom headquarters, but hopes to very soon.
"I have been promised a tour in the near future," she said. "I am going to look forward to that. I know they have a hallway with all the former commanders who commanded here, with their pictures in the hallway. I definitely want to go down that hallway and see my husband's picture."