Veterans memorial stands tall in heart of Ave Maria, FL
Michelle Mambuca, Ave Maria Development
In the heart of Ave Maria, Florida stands a Veterans memorial, paying tribute to the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces. This custom-built Veterans Memorial will provide a connection from past to present and enable residents and visitors to honor those who have served the United States of America. This Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11, 2023, at 11:11 a.m. the Ave Maria Veterans Association will hold a formal dedication for the new Ave Maria Veterans Memorial.
The memorial is located two blocks north of the Ave Maria Town Center along Ave Maria Boulevard. The Memorial is 60 feet in diameter and features and American flag in the center, surrounded by the flags and seals of all six military branches. A metal silhouette of a soldier kneeling in reflection faces the American flag, and opposite the silhouette is a wall containing service plaques and quotes honoring those who have served in the military. Surrounding the American flag are engraved pavers honoring Veterans, residents and local businesses that have donated to make the memorial a reality.
The Ave Maria Veterans Memorial is supported and funded by the Ave Maria community members, Ave Maria Stewardship Community, and Ave Maria. “People are just fabulous here in Ave Maria. We have felt so much support by the community. It’s a great feeling when people donate, especially the kids. They drop off dollars or change, it all adds up,” shares Tom Schlessinger, Ave Maria Veterans Association Vice President and memorial project manager. In total $140,000 total has been raised by residents throughout different fundraising opportunities. More recently, a Del Webb Resident donated the kneeling soldier silhouette for the memorial site.
The Ave Maria Stewardship Community District provided an easement on the land to help with the memorial in addition to Ave Maria Development assisted with permitting elements and some of the design, and electrical service for the memorial. “As the developer of the town of Ave Maria, we are very supportive of the Veterans association and how it benefits the community. It’s an incredible thing to see the town come together in support of our Veterans and townspeople,” said Dave Genson, President of Development for Barron Collier Companies, developer of Ave Maria.
The Flagpoles for Veterans program, which started in June 2020, has installed 435 flagpoles around Ave Maria. Veterans donated their time to install flagpoles for those who purchased them. This was the start of the fundraising initiatives with a goal to build a memorial. An Ave Maria business owner, Michael Schwartz, of Schwartz Investment Counsel, Inc. donated $15,000 to launch this fundraising initiative and it has only grown from there. “To see this all come to fruition is exciting,” shared Schlessinger. “We look forward to continuing to honor our Ave Maria community, its first responders and its Veterans.”