Commander Richard Hunt at

Inverness Fallen Soldiers Memorial

Vietnam War Veteran Receives Hs Diploma 55 Years Later — BY 

Commander Richard Hunt’s story starts in Downtown Inverness.  Looking out at the fallen soldiers' statue outside of the visitor's center, thanking the brave fallen soldiers and remembering his time serving in the Vietnam War.

“It takes me back to that time when I lost a lot of friends,” he told Bay News 9's Katya Guillaume.   A cool thing happened at @CHSCanes's graduation ceremony this year. @CitrusSchools Darrick Buettner told me the "why".

But the "who, how, and what" can be answered by watching the full story on @BN9.

He wasn’t even 18 years old.  “At 17, I left high school," he said. "Volunteered for the service. It took both parents to consent to that. They agreed that was going to be the best thing because when I turned 18, I was gonna go anyway.”

As the son of a Navy Korean Veteran, that was the path of life.  “Presidential order required that I be 18 before I could go into combat and I was in combat shortly after my 18th birthday for Tet Offensive 1968," he continued.   Things were much different back then, when it came to enlisting.  He continued, “While I was in Vietnam, I took my high school equivalency, the GED, and passed it." 

He left his high school days behind him, never graduating and moving on with his life, until a particular afternoon just a few weeks ago.   “In conversation with Darrick Buettner of the school district here in Citrus County," he said, "working on another project, he asked me whether I might know or not of a young veteran who would like to receive a high school diploma.”

In 2013, Florida lawmakers passed legislation that states the Commissioner of Education may award a standard high school diploma to any honorably discharged veteran who has not completed high school graduation requirements.

“I said no," he continued, "because currently the folks that go into service have to have a high school education to get, but I said I know of a Vietnam veteran.”    It took no time for Citrus County school officials to include the commander in Citrus High School’s 2022 graduation ceremony.

“Somebody had to be peeling onions because something was leaking from my eyes when all that had to happen,” the commander said.   He received his high school diploma from Citrus High School for one reason only.

“This is the high school that our chapter namesake, the military order of the purple heart, Aaron A. Weaver attended." Commander Hunt. "He gave his life and service to the country and our chapter's name for him. This is the school he graduated from.” 

He said it was an easy decision that he wanted the same.   With his diploma in hand, walking down the halls of Citrus High School, he can finally call himself a high school graduate.  Citrus School officials say this is monumental for them, to recognize veterans in the best way they can. 

Buettner told Bay News 9, “We have a passionate care for all the veterans in our county and their service to our country to keep our country free. Any opportunity we have to recognize our veterans or to show support to our veterans, we take that opportunity because we know how valuable they were to our country.” 




After a  1842 mile trip, 15 years, they were  crated, and weighing  1100.00+ pounds, the statues arrived in  Inverness, Florida to be stored until ready to be moved into the new park area next to the courthouse building…




AL ZIMMERMAN, Medalist Vietnam Helicopter

ELLIE SCARFONE,  Foundation President

SCOTT STEARMAN,  Master Sculpture



Vice President / Sec/ Operations


When one door closes, it seems another door opens,  a couple of years ago we found we have another new project, beginning, and new project.   After our president, Ellie Scarfone met with Frank DeGiovanni, City Manager of Inverness, a town known for its love of the military, conversation led to cooperation on a level we were not used to.  They were looking for enhancement, we had experience and product knowledge, experience and they were willing to put it all together, graciously.   

The best way to describe Inverness is a little town with a really big heart.   Thus a Military Service Memorial, with all the essence of what we were about,  and what the city was about,  and with their  councils approval the die was cast.  Our Memorial Foundation would work with the City to build the Military Service Memorial.

In cooperation with the city of Inverness Florida, January 20, 2018) we Unveiled a New City Park and Memorial to those who served in our country’s wars. 

In the photo above our team met with City Manager Frank DiGiovanni, our organizations President Ellie Scarfone, Treasurer David Troup,  Vice President /Sec/Operations Alan Jacobson and we unveiled the statues we will be presenting to the city for their new Military Service Memorial Park being built in the middle of town and accessible to all.   A long journey from Colorado and delivered in perfect condition—  

Inverness is close to the Florida National Cemetery. The Florida National Cemetery is part of the United States National Cemetery system located near the city of Bushnell in Sumter County, Florida.  Administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it encompasses 512.9 acres, and began interments in 1988.


SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 2018  PRESS NOTIFICATION  —  The Military Service Memorial  for the fallen will be presented today to the public in the Florida City of Inverness.  The city has graciously provided the resources for a new city park located strategically in a very high traffic area where it will be seen, open to and experienced by all, 24/7/365.

It is close to the hallowed ground of the  Florida National Cemetery located in Bushnell Florida, next  to highways 41 and 44 on the side of the government center building in a beautiful new park. 

It is this proximity to the FNC cemetery, supported by an incredibly large community of military, civilian retirees, and a very progressive city government that moves forward on things, the town of Inverness Florida, made the selection for our project simple. 

From start to finish the project went as planned and the results exemplify the cooperation, efforts, perfection and belief in what was the final goal, the recognition of the those who served.

Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran.     

Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial. 


DEDICATION —  The unveiling of the monument in Inverness was on JANUARY 20, 2018.  Located almost in the center of town in a great little city.  It was voted into greatness by and designated a “Gateway Community” by the Florida Trail Association. 

Since 1995, Inverness has been recognized as a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation and the US Forest Service. In 2009, Inverness was named “City of the Year” by the Forty and Eight, a national veterans’ organization.   

Incredible, as a population under 8000 but always something to do and a very active town, something going on, concerts and the likes with a fair amount of space there is always a seat at the table in some great little eating spots. Lots of mom and pop places with great food.  It is also one of the fastest growing communities in Florida with all kinds of great things soon to happen.

The City of Inverness designed and built the park for the statues that we donated, it’s really a  major city event, their show and we couldn’t agree more about how well the presentation went .   

For the first time in thirty-five years of doing this work for the recognition of our military, our team, Ellie, Alan, and David can sit back and relax knowing the work we did will be appreciated and acceptable to all.  I am proud of our teams effort and closure, and we thank humbly the City of Inverness.  The statues location was paramount to our initial plans for public acceptance and makes the representation easily available to the public. 

Ellie Scarfone said:   “This is incredibly impressive,  I had originally thought it should go to Liberty Park because the 9/11 memorial is there and it’s a larger, more open space”.  “But with the proposed changes the city made to his area, this makes much better sense.   

Frank DeGiovanni:  “ Sometimes it’s wonderful that things don’t go the way we plan them”.   Look what we have here.  Frank DiGiovanni - “I’m humbled, moved, blown away,” DiGiovanni said at the unveiling. “This is an incredible presentation of the effects of war, and these are lifelike, real-life people brought from the battlefield to Inverness in a memorialized manner. .   

Alan Jacobson Interceded:  “Yes, patience, cooperation, and with a little divine guidance, and lots of sheer grit at times,   we have exceeded our own expectations”.   We 're a team in meaning, dedication  and recognition for those who paid the price of freedom and will never be forgotten.


Everyday, we all have the opportunity to answer the question, “What is in my hand?” For me, the answers lie in the tools of my trade. The ideas, clay, calipers, and shapers all hold the secret to communicating with people I will never meet.   I want the message to endure long after I am gone. I want the message to speak the eternal truths to a culture that needs reminding.

Scott Stearman pointing to the statues and in particular the helmet worn by Sgt. Amy Perkins with pictures of her children and her fiancé who unfortunately did not make it home from the war zone and was laid to rest.  The detail in the statues are true to the time the era and the place and come alive when you take the time to see them.

Such is the life of a sculpture. The clay model sits in front of me on the table, life ever so slowly coming to the figures as I shape the details, hour upon hour.  It’s time consuming, tedious work.  This model will eventually be formed into to a finished piece. But the soul is captured here, in his hands while the clay is still workable. My studio is tucked into the side of a small hill in the trees of Woodland Park, Colorado. The setting alone is a source of inspiration for me. Larger hands are actually at work, guiding my own to produce something that I hope will endure. It’s a simple equation— Faith in, faith out.

Bronze sculptures are timeless containers for our collective stories. What sculptures capture in the present, they continue to speak long into the ages. Bronzes outlive the generations that birth them. They preside over public places and whisper their history into the present. Like no other artform, they withstand the weather of time, and tirelessly ask the future to pause and remember.

Scott’s studio and partner foundry are here in Colorado, but his work permanently stands and whispers in places like universities, city squares, military memorials, hospitals, financial institutions — all over the country.

One of my favorite things about Scott’s work is the layers of detailed symbolism he includes. It’s like playing “I Spy” to find the embedded messages.

This Is The Sculpture For The Inverness Service Memorial

“In this space, our friend shows us life. When he creates with clay, he makes something from nothing, truth from dirt, beauty from earth. He points us to our creator.” True that.

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RECOGNITION  —  The first of these two plaques are in recognition for those named at the bottom of the plaque,  whose direction by President Ellie Scarfone brought the statues and artistry of Scott Stearman, the insight and the vision of  City Manager Frank DiGiovanni  that brought about this Park and Memorial.    We humbly thank the people, the incredible collaboration with the loving Citizens of Inverness Florida, the Mayoral and City Government leaders and most of all those represented by this Memorial   —    the Soldiers Memorial --


Ellie Scarfone       Al Jacobson      David Troup

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