With more than 100 veterans on hand, a newly named “Veterans Way” was ceremonially unveiled on Feb. 4 as an entryway to the Veterans Memorial at Tropical Park.
“Not many visitors were aware of the existence of this memorial until last year when Miguel Penton and Eagle Scout Perry Adair approached us with initiatives to revitalize the site,” said Jack Kardys, director of Miami-Dade Parks.
A monument etched with the names of the four major branches of the U.S. Armed Forces is surrounded by four granite benches in a circular arrangement just north of Tropical Park’s Memorial Stadium that was originally dedicated as a tribute to U.S. veterans on Nov. 2, 1980.
“The memorial provides a place for families to come and reflect on the sacrifices our servicemen and women have given in behalf of their country,” explained Eddie Lombard, U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
Nevertheless, the monument had little recognition until Penton petitioned District 10 Commissioner Javier Souto to erect the street sign and hold a ceremony adjacent to the memorial.
Kardys credited Eagle Scout Adair of Boy Scout Troop 457 and his fellow troop members who helped “spruce up” the site as a special project.
“This is a very special moment for me,” declared Souto who recounted his service with the 1961 CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba by Brigade 2506, Cuban exiles who named their invasion force after its first training casualty.
“We honor those who gave their lives in that special cause for restoring freedom, as well as all American servicemen and women, both living and deceased, who have served their country,” he stated.
Souto then provided heretofore “undisclosed details” about a second mission he was called to perform with a still-secret CIA team, developing reconnaissance information immediately prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.
“You are the first to know about this,” he said of undercover exploits on Cuban soil at the time the Soviet Union was completing ballistic missile sites. Details will be forthcoming in a publication he is writing, Souto promised.
“These are the moments that we thank God for the privilege of being citizens of this country that stands at a moment’s notice to keep the peace throughout the world,” said District 12 Commissioner José ‘Pepe’ Diaz who served with the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We honor the country that opened its arms to those who lost their own freedom, just 90 miles away,” he added just before leaving the ceremony to honor a detachment of U.S. servicemen and women headed overseas.
Joining the two commissioners for the street sign unveiling and laying a wreath at the Veteran’s Memorial was Commander Cartus Thornton, U.S. Coast Guard Chaplain, and Miami-Dade County Appraiser Pedro Garcia.