THE MEMORIAL COMPLETED
10/10/2001- 05/18/2016 THE FOUNDATION,
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 AOR of the Central Command. They are all heroes…
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.
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.
Numerous delays after delays have taken a simple three year project and dragged it to fifteen years which is a long time. We have fallen back in our attempts to further expand and upgrade the project due to a lack of cooperation, and changes which effected the basic goals we wished to accomplish. Our job is done, and we wish the very best for those who will follow…
CAUGHT IN THE WAR
The unnamed war effort turned things upside down. When our project started in 2001, the CENTCOM KIA count at that time was measured at 148. That made for simple engraving on the walls.
Today the WAR KIA toll is over 7000+ and the wounded count is at 50,000+. And we are active in many other locations under the AOR. 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 of CENTCOM” and the significant changes to the base. Then we lost our architect and friend who gave so much, when he passed away. Our staff is small and we are all retirement age, and fifteen years is enough, thus we have scrapped plans for any further future upgrades to the Memorial and turn to other projects.
Money, donations are nonexistent, and the public is tired of war and cooperation is tight, on behalf of the base, too tight because of the DOD and frankly we are not a priority of war. Regardless of what it is called, mission names, and protective rhetoric mean nothing, we are at war, people are dying militarily and civilian wise. And security is now a major deeper concern for the base, with Representative David Jolley’s article (Tampa Times) on the dangerous backed up base traffic at the main gate and the gridlock every day. A good security person would refer to it as sitting ducks.
The Central Command Memorial structure is 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. We wish them well, it would make a splendid park and still be utilized.
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 hadmeetings with the base engineers who gave us guidelines for the construction and the approximate location and direction the memorial faced.
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.
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.
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. Delayed again.
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 only two years behind.
MEANWHILE THE ARAB 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 which became the Arab Winter with new characters and scenarios from Libya, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran. The next development ISIS (ISIL) was born.
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. 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.
OUR FIRST PRESS RELEASE:
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 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 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 despite conversations.
The Washington 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.
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.
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 for us.
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 wanted to go further and update our ten year old project but got no where, we didn’t even have a point of contact. Like we were forgotten. The we got the news about security measures after some bad publicity surfaced.
That precluded the straw that broke the Camels back. As the new security measures, imposed by the DOD , the good folks of Tampa Bay would have extreme difficulty gaining access to see the Memorial. That was the killer. Suggestions of a bus twice daily (we had a volunteer or two) for tours got nowhere. We were done, and we did what we could to finish things and could not raise additional funding.
THE INITIAL GOAL and DEFAULTS
The original basic premise of a Memorial for those who paid the ultimate price of freedom with access for the people of Tampa Bay, the Military and Visitors, plus the obvious additional usage for Military pomp and ceremony. As things developed the access issue became impossible with few or no solutions.
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. We really could not do what we wanted because we spoke for the deceased, not the wounded. The bigger groups with access sucked the oxygen out of the room. People would help the wounded, but talking about the deceased was taboo.
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 because we did not fit under anyones job description and not part of the service. 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. There were nine Centcom Commanders, six assigned, three temporary.
SECURITY - None of the current level of security was on the table when the project started. After several breaches, some very bad rated incidents involving shooting and gate security, homeless excursions onto the base, the real tabloid killer surfaced and it was pretty but not pretty. Beautiful ladies, palsy relationships with parties and high ranking officers, made the national news ad nauseam. And it lasted quite a while, embarrassing the high staff and it forced the security issue on base access for civilians who were taking advantage of the situation. The DOD stepped in, with new rules and made it impossible for us to continue. We were as “Friends of MacDIll” on the same list. 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.
All of which created the major problem, the publics access to the base under the DOD procedures and protocols. 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.
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.
Less I forget, 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 comedic 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.
Frequent changes in command at the Base Command level, hurt us. It has taken almost fifteen years, six CENTCOM Commanders, four or five base Commanders, since the project was first envisioned. And other than one or two gave us any support. We were a civilian organization, - GIFTING - a million dollar 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. The past fifteen years has been a struggle to find out who is on first, what’s on second and no one knows “Where he hell third is” .
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 of nation building which has failed and which yielded us nothing. Now we have 7000 killed, 50,000 wounded and an unknown number suffering from PTSD, The Arab spring still looks like a long hard winter.
Thomas Edwin Ricks is an American journalist who writes on defense topics. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. I see many things in his writings about the upper echelon of our military, as his last three books encompass the entire Middle East conflict. It is excellent reading and an insight into the real stories behind the decisions and mistakes. Shadow Warrior by Felix Rodriguez and Wiser in Battle by LTGen Sanchez are also good reads.
The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
A Soldier’s Duty
Making the Corps
The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today.
On American Soil: the Widening Gap between the U.S. Military and U.S. Society
Project on U.S. Post Cold-War Civil-Military Relations
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.
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