For the past several decades, almost thirty-five years worth,  I have had the privilege and honor of working with a select group of people who have dedicated their efforts to recognize the efforts of and the sacrifices of our military.   It all started for me when I was introduced to a gentleman by the name of Richard Leandri, who was a well known realtor and Community leader in Clearwater, Florida.

The Special Forces of the United States, namely the Army Rangers, the SEALS and other specialized units hadn’t received any recognition for the work, honor and sacrifice required of their organization purposes.  Training alone resulted in several deaths but were well kept under wraps.  This was and is dangerous work and with the expansion of our military into the covert actions of the battlefield today, even more so.

Richard, changed all that.  The Special Operations personnel can’t exactly give away information and the military can’t applaud itself, so Richard found another way of letting the public see what they do with the building of the Military Memorial in LARGO’s main park, Florida dedicated to all branches.

It continued on with Richards Organization called “ The Chairborn Rangers”.   Immediately work started on the The Ranger Memorial at Fort Benning and the organization of the Ranger Games, a yearly competition seen on ESPN.  It was followed up by the building of the beautiful SOCOM Memorial built on MacDill Air Force Base.  

Richard was a mover and shaker, but his strongest suit was his love of the Military, when he passed a Memorial plaque was dedicated and hangs in the entrance of the Special Operations Command Building at MacDill recognizing the man who recognized them.  A  few remaining members of the organization re-formed and in October 2001 The USCENTCOM Memorial Foundation, Inc., was formed.

This is the story of those who tried to do the right thing and ran into the red tape of doing something good for the services and received little or no cooperation due to an expanding war, terrorism, and indifference.


As established we were a non-profit, Federal and Florida State registered organization, in compliance with code 501 [C] [3] established in 2001.  We were publicly funded, and accepted donations for the Memorial at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida.    No taxpayer dollars or Federal grants were used other than the land the Memorial is built on, as supplied by the US Air Force.  

We, our organization are and were about the “TROOPS”.  It is not about specific units, branches of service, rank, our board, or individuals.  Our focus was clear and defined, we serve and recognize the “TROOPS and those who have paid the ultimate price in service to their country under the control and direction of the AOR of the Central Command.  They are all heroes

All of our funds have been raised by donation.  With that said, any information about our Corporation, the Memorial, its Membership and Personnel may be obtained by writing to the President,  VP-secretary and Treasurer.    After fifteen years in existence, the foundation today in 2016  the Centcom Memorial Foundation has completed its task, advancing as far as we could bowing to the priorities and needs of our Armed Forces at the MacDill AFB site.

Extreme changes in base admittance policy and numerous delays after delays have taken a simple three year project and dragged it to sixteen plus years.   We have fallen back in our attempts to  further expand and upgrade the project due to a lack of cooperation, and severe cost increases in material and labor.

Those changes dictated by the DOD, which affected the basic goals we wished to accomplish. Thus our job is done, and we wish the very best for those who will follow…in supporting the families of the fallen,  and hope the Memorial as it stands will serve it’s purpose.

Today the longest war in American History has killed (KIA)  more than 7000 plus and the wounded count is at 52,000 plus. When we started the Centcom Memorial the count was 148.   And today, we are currently active in many other locations under the AOR.   The Arab spring turned into a long hard winter.  911 is and was more than three numbers, it dictated a change in the way we do things and a horrific learning curve.

Our project represented one side of the heavy price the troops have paid.  It also means some original plans had to be scrapped midstream twice and the project changed in terms of the finishing to reflect the “ The Branding of CENTCOM” and the significant changes to the base, the Command and the Mission.  

Close to a billion dollars were spent by the Government to upgrade the Central Command, the Joint Operations Command, the base Hospital and other ancillary facilities.  They simply had no time for us, we were not on the priority list though we asked them for nothing.  Being in a war with no name takes priority.  Totally ignored by the base and command, claim being it was an Air Force project since Centcom was a guest on Air Force property.  Everybody had an excuse. Even though the Memorial was meant specifically for the Centcom AOR.

In Feb 2001, the United States Central Command was approached by the founders to discuss the possibility of building a Memorial to honor the men and women who served CENTCOM.  The Commander at that time was Gen. Tommy R. Franks who felt the idea was both commendable and necessary.  And then soon after, he retired, his support for the project vanished since he built his own Memorial and Institute back home and he relished in his own glory.   

We were formerly incorporated the 10th of October 2001. The Foundation immediately had meetings with the base engineers who gave us guidelines for the construction and the approximate location and direction the memorial faced.  

We received our Tax Exempt Status 501(c)(3) in June 2002.  We started fundraising.  At receptions community leaders were then presented with the Memorial Foundation’s Introduction and it was warmly received.  And that was the last we heard of them and their support.  Talk is big, actions much smaller.

Ceremonial Ground Breaking took place in January 2003. Attended by local dignitaries, past honorary board members and Gen. Tommy Franks. The process to achieve Congressional Approval started and then so did the war.   It was a race and the war won.  

After the plans were approved in 2003, they were reviewed in Washington for approval by the House of Representatives, the Secretary of Defense, the Department of Defense and the United States Senate.  This is the procedure that needed to be followed even though we are not using government funding.  

More delays.  Adding insult to injury, our paperwork, somehow got lost on at that time during the tenure of the  21st SEC of Defense,  the highly regarded stand up comic Donald Rumsfeld.   The initial paperwork got lost or it just got ignored in Washington.  Resubmitted as rules were changed as to what the funding could, can, or must be.  No one could get answers or direction. Our project simply did not fall into anyones “In” basket, thus it never arrived at an “Out” basket. 

In 2008, after Congressional approval, came through, again it had to be resubmitted and then resubmitted, changed and altered, redrawn and redesigned, the newly designated site area was approved.    

Construction began immediately as we didn’t want to get bumped again.  We moved and started building.  It was a costly wait while Washington fiddled and concrete and rebar prices burned upward.  Our labor costs doubled.  The security levels increased, raising the costs and time spent on clearances.  Our laborers received base passes easier then members of the foundation.  It was starting to get frustrating. 

Numerous attempts at various departments at the base to facilitate matters resulted in what I call “Not My Job Syndrome”, because we did not fit under any command.  Unbelievable, had we known what we had gotten into,  we would have never started the project on base. We would have opted for a civilian off base site in downtown Tampa or the Airport area. 

I asked if the base could furnish one of the sky lifts for about ten minutes so we could secure some aerial photos of the site for the press and in particular to help us with fundraising.  Big mistake, somehow the base JAG via the base Commander got wind of my simple request and that opened a year and a half investigation to see if  our paperwork with all the new rules and regs were applicable.  What a waste of time and consideration on an approved project

Finally, The Board of Directors of the CENTCOM MEMORIAL FOUNDATION are pleased to announce that on Friday the 18th of January 2008, after five years of “ BOON DOGGLING”  the contract to build the CENTCOM MEMORIAL was awarded and issued after .GOV took five years to get paperwork they knew nothing about in place.   Finally so we thought.

From 2008 to 2011 the basic construction was completed to the point of the initial phase. It also meant back to fundraising as the delays and money expended expotentionally forced us to raise more income and required changes as the recession hit full force and the housing bubble busted.  Money became tight, and we had to look to other sources.  Also as the construction began on the two new buildings for the Command headquarters and the Joint Intelligence building, it really hindered things for us.  Our costs doubled and under regulations could not get an approval for more funds as it would take another five years.

The billion dollar upgrade, huge state of the art complexes, mirrored in design and prominence, but it brought new issues of security, regulations, access and communication.  The Joint Command Headquarters building was completed in 2011 and some of the construction barriers and security options still made it very difficult to get done what we needed to do.   

We wanted to go further and update our ten year old project but got no where, mired in mud, we didn’t even have a point of contact.  Like we were forgotten. 

Then we got the news about security measures after some bad publicity surfaced about Macdill, some local personalities and the Generals.   You probably saw the articles about a certain frat party atmosphere amongst the hierarchy at Macdill. Including but not limited to Command Officers.  More on that.

Another meeting with changes to the construction because of new rules and costings.  The architectural design and plans are by the late and renowned Architect C. Randolph Wedding of Wedding and Associates, Architects, Inc  were modified to update the new cost limitations imposed by the government and finally approved.  Instead of being grandfathered in, they were putting us in diapers.

This was to be a classic error later on/in the construction using the tiles instead of granite since the tiles were on a schedule that no one paid attention to despite conversations to that effect.  No one at the base took this into consideration nor offered advice or aid of any sort.

The DOD and the game changers meant we had to re-draw and re-design since the materials we had originally planned to use [Black Granite and a slab configuration] went over the government gifting budget to a less expensive option of tiles and held in place [temporarily] with removable clips and screws with decorative washers called rosettes.  

We had no other option but to meet the cost reduction to comply with Washington.  Had the work been approved with years 2003 to 2005 we were within budget.  The rosettes had a shelf life [maybe a year or two]  and their purpose was to temporarily hold the inscribed tiles in place till they were inscribed and then epoxied permanently into place. We completed what we could do up to that point.

In the interim, after we lost our architect and friend who gave so much, when he passed away.  Our staff  became smaller, friends vanished, on to other things, we (the three of us) are all way over retirement age now, and sixteen years of red tape is enough, thus we have scrapped plans for any further future upgrades to the Memorial and will turn to other projects.  We will not forget the troops.   We will also remember who were not there for us to continue.

KILLER ONE - The DOD has upped the security at the base, understandable in lieu of bad press over various non-professional indiscretions  by the senior staff,  which made the front page of most newspapers and the TV for months.  It involved some really bad press about a few beautiful ladies from the Tampa Bay Area, with base passes, palsy relationships with parties and high ranking officers,  and it made the national news ad nauseam.   

It made the front pages and every news tabloid at your grocery store.  The press was literally camped in front of one of the houses of people involved which was Mrs. Jill Kelly, a “Macdill AFB Civilian Liaison person” .  And the FBI got involved, including an agent friend, and that led to investigations and the Petraeus Scandal.

After several incidents involving attempted breaches, some very bad rated incidents involving a shooting at the gate and gate security in general, homeless excursions onto the base, the real tabloid killer surfaced and it was pretty but not that pretty.  That forced the DOD to review the entire civilian base pass privileges.  

It lasted quite a while, embarrassing the high staff and it forced the security issue on base access for other good support civilians who were not taking advantage of the situation and helping to support the troops.  Dedicated local Tampa Bay fans.  Like us.  The entire civilians on base issue blew out of proportion and we were suddenly without any help.

The Central Command Memorial structure is complete at MacDill AFB.  It is a far as we can go.  We cannot devote any more resources nor time to those not appreciating it or working with us.  What they envision in completion of the project is in their hands. They tied ours up, a shame.

 As the new security measures, which were imposed by the DOD, the good folks of Tampa Bay would have extreme difficulty or being denied, even gaining access to see the Memorial.   That was the killer, and we were literally done at that point.  



And we did what we could to finish things and could not raise additional funding for a Memorial to serve the Military on a base that did not permit Civilians to visit and pay their respects.  It’s a  simple as that.  The security, access and red tape went to a level to build on federal soil are unbelievable and are beyond reality.  And no one even made attempts to help us because we did not fit under anyones job description and we were not part of the service or government.

The DOD stepped in, with new rules and made it impossible for us to continue.  We were as “Friends of MacDIll”, placed on the same list as the scandalizers.  It basically killed us.  Just getting a base pass became a nightmare with personnel restrictions, layer upon layer as the threats increased, whereas access became more difficult.  The Command did not back me up, my base pass was turned over to the civil engineers good for thirty days.

 Another headache was turnover. On a war footing continuity is important, the revolving door at CENTCOM vital to the effort was a disaster for us. From the General staff on down, contacting anyone never got you the same phone number twice…to the same voice.  Getting to see someone was next to impossible. Getting a return call was worse.

There were nine Centcom Commanders, six assigned, three temporary and every staff change literally meant we knew no one and no one’s line was always busy.   The change of Command ceremonies were so frequent they could save time by leaving the chairs in place….

We were different from the other charities who secured large and free TV budgets.  We represent those who have paid the ultimate price.  We don’t have the right pictures, nor Bright house support, or Hollywood and episodes to show who we care for, since our final shot would be a flag draped coffin.   The bigger groups with access sucked the oxygen out of the room.  People would help the wounded, but talking about the deceased was taboo.

Just the small pie wedge of 7000+ killed in action that few speak of.  Calls to fellow groups like the YYYY and  XXX fell on deaf ears.  They are out there having enough problems raising funds. And some groups offering to help did nothing.  We got the usual talk the talk, but no one walked the walk.

Worse we could not function under the controls set upon us as a vendor.  For me to bring a prospective donor to the base or contractor involved too much hassle, a one hour meeting took a day at minimum.  Few donators and vendors will give you that or succumb to the background checks and more politics.

No one came forward from the Central Command, the Air Force Base Command, and we got passed off from the Command to the Base Command who moved us to the Engineers.   When we were transferred to the base operations the CENTCOM project had to be reviewed by the JAG.   This was a complete waste of our time, our money and our efforts.   . 

Spending over a year, 15 months,  with the JAG as to paperwork and Congressional cost controls on a fully civilian funded operation, which was already approved years earlier, no government money needed was another setback.  It took fifteen months to make sure the “I’s were dotted and the “T”s crossed.  They (JAG)  found nothing wrong, except we found we lost fifteen months and our costs exceeded 50,000 dollars wasted.

A special thank you to our patrons and friends who realized we have had many pressing moments these past few years. You have supported the Memorial foundation with patience, friendship and loyalty.  You have been the heroes.  You have helped us through this long process.   It has taken five times longer than expected, but we were diligent and pressed forth at every opportunity.   

🇺🇸 Mr. William L. Edwards  🇺🇸 Anheuser-Busch and Distributors   🇺🇸  Mortgage Investors Corporation  🇺🇸 Pinch A Penny, Inc.  

🇺🇸Tampa Electric Company   🇺🇸 OutBack Steakhouse  🇺🇸  Lawrence J. and Florence A. DeGeorge Charitable Trust  
🇺🇸 A. Duda and Sons, Inc. 🇺🇸 Lazy days RV Center  🇺🇸SunTrust Bank  🇺🇸 Ambassador John ROOD 🇺🇸  Ms. Carol  M. Botsolas  🇺🇸 Ellie Scarfone  🇺🇸 Foley Family Charitable Foundation  🇺🇸  The Pittway Family Foundation  

🇺🇸 Peter Rummell - St. Joe Company  🇺🇸 Dick DeVoss 🇺🇸  Beard Foundation, Inc 🇺🇸  Randall McElheney  🇺🇸  Bank of America 

🇺🇸 Robert  and Jean Walrich  🇺🇸Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr.  🇺🇸  David L. and Jeannie Troup 🇺🇸 John F. Kirtley 
🇺🇸 Alan Jacobson in Memory of Dolly Jacobson  🇺🇸   Bay Area Imaging Services, Inc  🇺🇸  James L. Ferman Jr.

🇺🇸 Henry J. Binder in Memory of Phyllis E. Binder (Both Served their Country)  🇺🇸 Mr. William Douglas Berry  
🇺🇸 Mr. Leslie A. Briggs  🇺🇸  Mr. Paul J. Bein 🇺🇸 Mr. Scott P. Barone  🇺🇸 Ms. Dixi Baker  🇺🇸  The Bob Allen Family Foundation  🇺🇸Ms. Beverly Austin  🇺🇸  Mr. Thomas Arthur  🇺🇸  Anonymous  🇺🇸  Community Foundation of Tampa Bay

🇺🇸 Mr. Renaldo Cruz,  🇺🇸CAE USA INC.  🇺🇸Joseph and Gilda F. Capitano  🇺🇸Martin and Marlyn Cheshes, 
🇺🇸Jim  and Christina Degenhardt   🇺🇸Mr. Eric Durham  🇺🇸Michael and Carol Foley

🇺🇸  Mr. Steven A. Frohlich, Dale and Marlena Granger  🇺🇸 Ms. Patricia A. Hilley,  🇺🇸Mr. Cedrick V. Harris,  

🇺🇸Mr. and Mrs. William Jeter  🇺🇸  Mr. John A. Krasula  🇺🇸  Brian and Linda Ligett  🇺🇸Roger and Jane Kenyon

🇺🇸 Jaimie Kitty,  🇺🇸Ms. Shirley I. Long  🇺🇸  Lt. Gen. Gary Mears and Jacqueline Mears

🇺🇸Joseph P. Monko 🇺🇸 Mr. David L. Mayes  🇺🇸Jim and Susie Marler  🇺🇸  Mr. David L. Miller

🇺🇸Mr. Eddie Orozco,  Reeves Import Motor Cars  🇺🇸  Mr. Richard Roy  🇺🇸 Owen and Susan Roberts, 
🇺🇸  Suarez Housing Corporation  🇺🇸Mr. George Steinbrenner  🇺🇸 Bruce and Adajean Samson, 

🇺🇸  Ed and Gloria Shaughnessy  🇺🇸 Mr. Gary A. Skeen  🇺🇸 Mr. John D. Streder 🇺🇸Fred and Joy Thomas

🇺🇸  The Tampa Electric Company  🇺🇸 Tampa Bay Rays of  Hope Foundation, Inc

🇺🇸  Mr. Ross VanLerberghe  🇺🇸  American Veterans Post #98   🇺🇸 The Bruce and Gail Wiesemann Family Trust

🇺🇸  James and Dorothy Villa  🇺🇸  The 6th Graders of ORONO Middle School in Orono , MN

🇺🇸 Wanda Elkins   🇺🇸  Sabrina and Jamie McFarland  🇺🇸 Thomas, Molly, Sarah, and Clare E. Devlin

🇺🇸  Bonnie Thomas, Walter and Brenda Viveiros  🇺🇸 Bonnie Scott  🇺🇸Candida Cotto

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