A dozen Miami-Dade officials paid tribute to the nation’s armed forces on Veterans Day, observed Nov. 12, the first celebration of the national holiday at the county’s under-construction Military Museum.
U.S. Navy veteran Anthony Atwood, a FIU professor who has initiated and guided the historical project, termed the event a “milestone” in Miami-Dade’s military history as he welcomed a standing room crowd of more than 200 veterans and family members on a sunny holiday morning.
Project architect Richard Heisenbottle traced the history of the former Richmond Air Base building that has been moved to its new site adjacent to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum on the grounds of ZooMiami just south of SW 152nd Street.
With restoration nearing completion, through $3 million in county funding, Heisenbottle concluded, “We’ll see you again when the museum formally opens on Memorial Day in 2013.”
The three-story structure built in 1945 began its service as a headquarters building for anti-submarine warfare and continued as a CIA base during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 before becoming quarters for the U.S. Army Reserve.
In years to come, the museum will house collections of memorabilia to preserve South Florida military history as lived by its servicemen and women, many like George Dexter of New Symrna Beach who donated a 1945 Jeep, proudly displayed at the museum entrance during the Veterans Day event.
U.S. Army Reserve Ambassador Don Slesnick, a former Coral Gables mayor, began the program by honoring both veterans and those who have contributed time and funding to “bring the museum to reality” under Atwood’s leadership.
Among other VIP speakers: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, State Sen. Anitere Flores, State Sen. Dwight Bullard, State Rep. Frank Artiles, State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, Consul-General Gael de Maisonneuve of France, County Commissioners Jose Diaz and Joe Martinez, Veterans Commissioner Joe Martory and Felipe Villaraus of the Museum Institute for Cuba.
After the event, Atwood and Heisenbottle welcomed visitors for a first look inside the unfinished structure to see how the 67-year-old building has been transformed into Miami-Dade’s Military Museum-to-be.