The Campus History
Back in the 1980’s, Hillsborough County officials and local veterans came together to fund and develop a Veterans’ campus. A small museum was constructed to display military artifacts and to be a gathering place for small groups.
In 1992, the museum was joined by the Freedom Memorial to honor all members of the military and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
In 2005, the campus grew when 2.4 more acres were acquired. The larger space allowed local veteran’s advocates to provide a more diverse and useful facility for the community.
Commissioners were so encouraged that in April 2006, they launched a plan to determine the most appropriate manner and place to honor those who have given their lives while defending our Country and our freedoms. A short time later Dave Braun and Tom Fletcher led the campaign with over 25 veterans and others to pull together advocates, citizens, a team of professional architects and leaders into a cohesive force. It took only a few months to develop a “Master Plan” to expand and enhance Veterans’ Memorial Park and Museum.
The “Master Plan” was selected First Place by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council at their Annual Future of the Region Competition.
In 2007, county officials gave the task to veteran advocates to plan, design and forward their recommendations to county officials for further action. The Veterans Memorial Park and Museum Committee, Inc. (VMPMC) was formed and the 501(C)(3) tax-exempt status established.
The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners also approved $2.5 million for basic infrastructure, construction of a new entrance, expanding roadways and paths throughout the park, preparing future memorials to honor and memorialize deceased combat veterans of Hillsborough County. This includes a long-range plan to design and construct a new facility to support various veteran activities and the community.
The Vietnam Memorial was the first plaza to be dedicated. Bob Silmser led the sub-committee that planned and designed the plaza and at a brief ceremony at the park, Bob said “what a proud moment this is for me to accept a $3000 donation from Tom Hall, Commander of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 787.” This memorial was quickly completed with the help of over $91,000 in private contributions.
Bob’s success made him the obvious choice for coordinating the remaining memorials throughout the park as well as joining Dave Braun as Co-Chair of the VMPMC when Tom Fletcher stepped down to concentrate on the next phase of the Master Plan.
With a very capable sub-committee and design team for each subsequent memorial, the campus will close 2017 with thirteen world class war memorial plazas. Each is a beautiful tribute to local brothers and sister who made the ultimate sacrifice.