THE MEMORIAL COMPLETED
05/18/2016 ESTABLISHMENT GOALS AND PURPOSE
The USCENTCOM Memorial Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit, federal and Florida State registered organization, in compliance with code 501 [C]  established in 2001. We are 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 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 Central Command. They are all heroes…
It is our purpose to keep you informed. All of our funds have be raised by donation and we are stewards of those funds. With that said, any information about our Corporation, the Memorial, its Membership and Personnel may be obtained by writing to the President or staff which consists of our VP-secretary and Treasurer.
Other personnel, or those making claims, are not authorized to make statements. After a 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.
Numerous delays after delays have taken a simple three year project and dragged it beyond imagination. Fifteen years is a long time. We have fallen back in our attempts to further expand and upgrade the project due to a lack of cooperation. We wish to make it very clear that our organization is now small in numbers, only three have stayed the course, the other twelve went their ways not helping with the challenge. Our job is done, and we wish the very best for those who will follow…
The unnamed war effort turned things upside down. When our project started in 2001, the KIA count at that time was measured in a few hundred. That made for simple engraving on the walls.
Today the KIA toll is over 7000+ and the wounded count is at 50,000+. Our project represents 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” and the significant changes to the base.
We lost our architect and friend who gave so much, he passed away. Our staff is reduced to three from fifteen and we are all suffering from acute retirement age, those years. Money is tight, donations slim and none, and cooperation is tight, on behalf of the base, almost too tight because of the DOD and frankly we are not a priority of war. Regardless of what it is called we are at war, people are dying militarily and civilian.
The Central Command Memorial structure is 86% complete at MacDill AFB. It stands proudly in front of two new additions to MacDill, namely the CENTCOM building and the Joint Intelligence Command Headquarters Building, part of the growth and revitalization of MacDill AFB. The base hospital is new, as well as other ancillary facilities on the base.
FEB 2001 - In 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 under the umbrella of CENTCOM.
The Commander at that time was Gen. Tommy R. Franks who felt the idea was both commendable and necessary. And then he retired a couple years later.
OCTOBER 2001 - We were formerly incorporated the 10th of October 2001. The Foundation immediately began to develop the plan and design to construct a lasting monument. The rest of the year consisted of meetings with the base engineers who gave us guidelines for the construction and the approximate location and direction the memorial faced. This changed several times as personnel changed.
JUNE 2002 - We received our Tax Exempt Status 501(c)(3) in 2002. We started fundraising. The Base basically approved our site plan and signed off. At receptions community leaders were then presented with the Memorial Foundation's Introduction of Concept. It was warmly received. And thats the last we heard of them.
2003 CEREMONIAL GROUNDBREAKING - 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. With the expansion of the war, there were changes needed to facilitate the operation at MacDill. Right where we thought we would be. Unfortunately it was the basement.
2003 to 2008 - It all came down to the one Billion dollars in upgrades and new buildings to house the war efforts at CENTCOM, upgraded facilities for SOCOM, a new Base Hospital, facility, roadways, base force protection implementations, added security all took precedence over our development of the Memorial. Anyone who has served, learns the first day in the military, a short phrase. “ The needs of the service shall prevail”.
NOTE: 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, all of our funds have come from donations and the hearts of those that care. Again, no government funding was used in the Memorial. This went from rubber stamped to glued in place time wise.
2005 - MEETINGS with the BASE COMMANDER - We had meetings with the base Commander and the engineers and we thought everything was on line and on time. The base commander oversees nearly $3-billion in base property and assets and an annual operating budget of $250-million. And they had other ideas and new construction priorities as the no-name war proceeded to develop and we basically went on back burner.
MEANWHILE WINTER FOLLOWED SPRING - The unclear and stagnated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan escalated and “ urges” a new tactical operative word meant more deployment, more intel, more people and more needs. Today frankly the insurgencies are still going strong, over a wider base, the end result of the so-called Arab-Spring which became the Arab- Fall and a bleaker Arab-Winter with new characters and scenarios from Libya, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran.
Th next development ISIS (ISIL) escalated. The breeding ground for a monster called ISIL, ISIS or by it Arab name DAESH which is the acronym for the actual Arabic name that they use.
2008 - LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION - In 2008, after Congressional approval, came through, after the paperwork was lost in Washington, 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. In military parlance you never want to give up ground you have just taken and windows of opportunity are sometimes rare. We moved and started building. It was a costly wait. Concrete and rebar prices upped enormously and the labor costs skyrocketed. The security levels increased, raising the costs and time spent on clearances. It was starting to get frustrating.
After almost seven years of planning, conference's, estimates, progress, regression, revisions, success and frustration, that's all in the past now. The Board of Directors of the CENTCOM MEMORIAL FOUNDATION are pleased to announce that on Friday the 18th of January 2008, the contract to build the CENTCOM MEMORIAL was awarded and issued. The documents were signed and issued at the offices of C. Randolph Wedding, Architect. Not more than 45 days later the ground clearing and site preparation began. Eight years to get a gift Ok’d.
The architectural design and plans are by the late and renowned Architect C. Randolph Wedding of Wedding and Associates, Architects, Inc and were modified to update standards, and the cost limitations imposed by the government and finally approved. 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 no one paid attention to.
CONSTRUCTION BEGINS - 2008 - From 2008 to 2011 the 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. Amazing how costs of building supplies doubled when housing came back. But economic times didn’t.
By now the recession hit full force and the housing bubble busted. Money became tight, and we had to look to other sources. And the public was getting very tired of war.
Also as the construction began on the two new buildings for the Command headquarters and the Joint Intelligence building, it really hindered things.
Huge state of the art complexes, mirrored in design and prominence, but it brought new issues of security, regulations, access and communication. The 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 were done, and we did what we could to finish things and could not raise additional funding and with the new security measures, the good folks of Tampa Bay would have difficulty gaining access to see the Memorial.
COMMANDERS OF MERIT DURING OUR CONSTRUCTION PERIOD
GEN. Joseph Votel - Incumbent - 44 days
This was against the original basic premise of a memorial is for the people and possibly conditions could have been worked around, but no attempt was made, deaf ears, but it defeated the purpose of what we originally thought was proper.
We were different from the other charities with large and free TV budgets. We don’t have the right pictures and episodes to show who we care for, since our final shot is a flag draped coffin. Just the small pie wedge of 7000+ that few speak of. We were limited because we can’t do the big TV commercials to raise money.
And calls to fellow groups like the YYYY and XXX fell on deaf ears. And some groups offering to help did nothing. Lots of talk but little support. What have we learned… simple enough. We never should have built on a government facility. The security, access and red tape are beyond reality. And no one even made attempts to help us.
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.
None of this level of security was on the table when the project started. And some bad tabloid rated incidents involving beautiful ladies and palsy relationships with parties and high ranking officers made the national news ad nauseam. And it lasted quite a while, embarrassing and forced the security issue on civilians who were taking advantage of the situation. The DOD stepped in.
It did not help us, it hindered us… just getting a base pass became a nightmare with personnel restrictions, layer upon layer as the threats increased, whereas access became more difficult. I assume a few heads rolled. In addition, the past few years the base has had several unique personnel incidents on base further driving the access limitations higher. And reviews by the DOD expressed tighter restrictions.
All of which creates the major problem, the publics access to the base under the DOD procedures and protocols. It was our intent and feasible when the project started that civilians could get to see the Memorial. That has changed and thus our mission cannot be totally fulfilled as planned. Civilians and those wishing to pay respects will go through a strenuous process to see the Memorial if it can be arranged at all.
The important point here is without public access to the Memorial, what kind of a Memorial will it be? I don’t know and it’s not going to be on my schedule. We finished what we can do.
YEARS OF WAR SLOW THINGS DOWN…
- Much of which bares no blame, no ones is to fault for what they did, but for what they didn’t do. You can blame it all on terrorism and delays arising from the needs of the war extending as long as we have been in existence, 2001, before 911.
- The construction of the new buildings to house the Command and the Joint Forces Intel Buildings, left us in the basement of things.
- The changes from the DOD as to security and access are both understandable and necessary in lieu of the fact several incidences have taken place at the base mainly involving high ranking individuals and parties, undignified relationships and a lot of folks in the Tampa Bay area. They were on the same list we were for access at that time and things changed. Our working relationship with the Command, the base and the memorial became more difficult.
- We are the good guys and 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. Without a sponsor access to the base became a nightmare. The time wasted in standing on lines, parking and securing a base pass became a nightmare and even tougher when the DOD got into the act after some very embarrassing events took place at the base.
- The game changers meant we had to redraw basically the entire project 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 called rosettes. We had no other option to meet the cost reduction to comply with Washington. 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.
- When we were transferred to the base operations the CENTCOM project had to be reviewed by the JAG. This was a complete waste of time, money effort and not exactly a morale builder. Spending over a year, 16 months, with the JAG as to paperwork and Congressional cost controls on a fully civilian funded operation, no government money needed was another setback. We wasted fifteen months to make sure the “I’s were dotted and the “T”s crossed. They (JAG) found nothing wrong except for fifteen months lost. Contracts had to be redone, faulting our progress. And the costs were rising for what we needed for the project to be done after the housing bust. Simply put rebar, workers paychecks and concrete went up.
- Less I forget, adding insult to injury, our paperwork, somehow got lost on at that time the 21st SEC of Defense, “ War Chief” Rumsfeld’s desk. 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.
- Frequent changes in command at the Base Command level, hurt us. When no one knows who you are, you get politely shoveled away. The wars everlasting and budget constraints, not to mention the publics view of the wars that simply got us nowhere and paid for so far with 7000 of our friends, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, husbands, wives…and daddies…
- When we made friends with those in the Command, it seems the personnel we worked with were deployed, retired, or re-assigned to the AOR theatre. We had many friends and some didn't come home. Thats what our job is all about. They will be remembered.
- It has taken almost fifteen years, six CENTCOM Commanders, four or five base Commanders, since the project was first envisioned. And surprisingly enough we have only been invited to CentCom once to discuss the issue over this period of time.
- Let me explain the uniqueness of our position. We are a civilian organization, - GIFTING - dedicating a Memorial to the soldiers and families of CENTCOM Headquarters, which in turn is basically a "tenant" on an Air Force base. The chain of legality and ethics dictates that we must gift the Memorial to the Air Force. Centcom is basically a renter on the base. If you think Washington is bad, combine the Military and Congress, different branches, changes in personnel trying to get things done and it amazed me to have put up with it this long.
- The past fifteen years has been a struggle to find out "who is on first, whats on second and no one knows where where is” . We had to deal through all three entities. The necessary permits, permissions, acceptances, and approvals by the Base, by the Wing, the Command, the Engineers, and some of their superiors at the Air Force Command Headquarters, then off to Washington, where our paperwork got lost, is normally, not an easy task during peace time. Try it on war footing.
- We felt we would be completed in three to four years. Never happened and the time started to take its toll. All the other members from our board side have passed on, left for other projects, or simply wanted better networking for personal gain which was probably their intent from the beginning. We all understand that. It’s part of any organization with good intent. But age and indifference, our personal health, the worst part being ignored, handed off and reduced to the “C” list makes one reassess the situation.
- The enormity, scope and losses of these two wars changed all that was MacDill. Two wars, a million men and women deployed, and fifteen years in duration radically changes ones thinking a lot. Not to mention the trillions spent on a process which yielded us nothing. We are where we were ten years ago. Except now we have 7000 killed, 50,000 wounded and an unknown number suffering from PTSD, “ The agent orange of the Middle east wars” and in the middle of the Arab spring and it looks like a long winter.
A special thank you to our patrons and friends who realized we have had many pressing moments these past few years. You have a supported the Memorial foundation with patience, friendship and loyalty. You have been the heroes. You have helped us through this long process.
Again, thank you ALL for your patience and support. It has taken five times longer than expected, but we were diligent and pressed forth at every opportunity. It is often said “Tampa loves the Military and the Military loves Tampa”. It just not a 100% solid two way deal when Washington, Protocol, Evaluation Reports and Red-tape steps in.
The logo of the Central Command focuses around the Bald Eagle with shield. The Bald Eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 to represent this great nation. Symbolically, it was selected because of its long life span, incredible strength and majestic looks. It represents out basic tenet of FREEDOM.
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