“My son, Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr. was killed in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, on July 1, 2004. As a Platoon Sgt. for 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, he was on over 200 combat missions. One of the missions was in April 2004, while trying to get wounded marines out of harm’s way and was shot through his left shoulder and a fellow Marine had to tell him, as he didn’t realize it.
After being shot, he refused to be medically evacuated. Caring little about his own wound, he continued to lead his platoon forward for the next forty-eight hours. Only after he could not raise his wounded arm, did he stand down. Sgt. Conde could have come home but requested to stay in Iraq with his fellow marines. After minimal recovery from his wound, he continued to lead his marines on more combat missions until July 2004, when his unarmored Humvee was hit by an IED and he was killed.
My son received two Purple Hearts and the Navy Achievement Medal while in Iraq as well as being awarded the Bronze Star with a V for Heroism.
When asked, ‘how did you cope with this?,’ I explain that I wrote poems about Ken. Poems became my therapy. More and more poems became reflections and then my book, “Just Another Broken Heart” – Reflections From A Father of A Fallen United States Marine”.
Now, thanks to this Memorial Park, my son will be remembered for decades to come. The Park itself and the monument with the names of the fallen listed on it, tells me, that on a Community Veterans Appreciation Scale of 1-10, this project is clearly a 10+.”
Ken Conde, USMC Retired, Orlando
“Our twenty-three year old grandson, Michael E. McGahan, after graduating from the University of Florida in 2008, entered Officer Training School rather than going to graduate school and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. As his grandparents, we often told him how proud we were of him for serving his country. This past Memorial Day weekend, Michael was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was leading his platoon in Afghanistan and was killed by a sniper. His name at the monument at Lake Nona will mean so much to us. Many of the names of the fallen have been from wars years ago. For us, Michael’s falling is in real time. We are so grateful to the Veterans of Central Florida for honoring his duty and devotion to our country.”
Sam and Katy McGahan, MetroWest
“This monument will be a living testament to all those brave persons who gave their lives in so many wars so we could have our lives in continued peace and freedom. Whether you have worn the uniform of your nation or not, a monument like this is sobering for the men and women who call Central Florida their home.”
Dr. Neil Euliano, Past President, CFVI, CFVMPF
“We live in a society today that is obsessed with ROI, return on investment. I believe this monument is a fitting tribute to our brave comrades who had no expectation for a return on their investment of time in service to their country.”
The Honorable Bill Coleman
“What we are constructing is an avenue for teaching our children and grandchildren about their parents and grandparents who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom they are enjoying today and in the future.”
Billy Enfinger, Secretary, CFVMP Foundation,USA (Former) USCGAUX
“The memorial will also provide a powerful therapeutic benefit for many of our Veterans and their families who continue to struggle with memories of those that they lost in the military. Our new medical center will provide outpatient, inpatient, and residential services to a large number of Veterans with physical and emotional scars from their time in service. The memorial with its dignity and serenity will create the opportunity for powerful personal healing experiences for many of these Veterans, similar to that experienced by Veterans visiting the Vietnam War Memorial and other war memorials in Washington, D.C.”
Timothy W. Liezert, VA Medical Center Director, Orlando
“I was born in Cuba and at the age of thirteen I came to this beautiful land. One of the first things I had to learn was not to fear men and women in military uniform. Where I came from such uniforms meant control, subjugation, oppression, all violations of human rights. War after war the United States military has fought to give freedom to oppressed people. We owe the men and women who served in the military our deepest gratitude. So, too, does the world. As one who once feared you, know that the fear turned to respect, admiration and gratitude. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this important endeavor for our six county region.”
George Rodon, Chief of Staff, Orange County Mayor’s Office
“As the former Mayor of Oviedo, I have witnessed major growth in our population in the last decade, particularly among young families. This monument will provide them a reminder of the brave men and women who made our city and county free.”
Colonel Tom G. Walters, USAF Retired, Former Mayor of Oviedo, FL
“When our group of veterans met over the years, our goal was to have a Veterans Hospital built in Central Florida so our local veterans could have access to first rate healthcare. Once we achieved our goal, with the considerable help of Congressman John Mica, we felt another kind of care was needed–a permanent monument of caring as a way to recognize our fellow veterans who did not come home. This will be just that.”
Lieutenant Colonel Earle Denton, USA, Retired
“I have a son who is a career solider headed to Iraq. I am sensitive to the number of men and women who gave their life for our country. This is the right project, for the right purpose and at the right time for our region and country.”
Charlie Brenner, Past President, CFVI, President Brenner Realty
“THE WORLD WILL LITTLE NOTE, NOR LONG REMEMBER…”
It would be easy today to allow the words of President Lincoln to ring true in the year 2010 in Central Florida, were it not for a small group of local veterans. Over the last decade they have not allowed the stress and strain of the times or unlimited distractions of the electronic age to forget their fallen comrades.
As these surviving and aging veterans realize their own mortality, they felt a sense of urgency to create a memorial to those in the six county region of Central Florida who answered our country’s call to duty and never came home. They gave, in President Lincoln’s immortal words, “the last full measure of devotion.”
Today one might ask – Isn’t the compassion of a community measured by how it remembers those who made it possible for them to live freely in their community? If so, we have much to be proud of as Central Florida will soon enshrine the patriotism of over one thousand soldiers who gave their life for that freedom.
Memorials give recognition to those who had no expectation for it — men and women devoted to their duty – fighting to keep our country free. The monument at the Memorial Park will also perpetuate memories, living memories of the individuals so honored. Some monuments glimmer and shine and provide a sense of awe. The monument at Central Florida’s Veterans Memorial Park shall be worthy of those it recognizes by accomplishing three objectives:
I. It makes the names the monument itself
By prominently displaying the names on the marble structure of over one thousand fallen veterans from Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties, The Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park at the Lake Nona Medical City will be a lasting tribute to their memory. Upon advice from a historical consultant, the date each county was incorporated is the starting date for the listing fallen veterans.
II. It provides families and friends of the fallen a hunger for hope and healing
The Memorial Park will be adjacent to the new Veterans Hospital overlooking a tranquil lake and a short walk to the Chapel that is also part of the VA complex. The intersecting of this monument with the VA Hospital, Chapel and beautiful lake makes this memorial more than a monument. It makes it a special place for families and friends to grieve, heal, pray and remember.
III. It lasts forever
In the decades to come, the monument will be properly maintained by income from a special endowed fund.
The Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park will truly be a Special Place that encompasses each of these objectives. As the volunteer leaders for this campaign and the Foundation’s fiduciary Board of Directors, we can assure everyone who participates in our campaign that we will do our best to make this Memorial Park – MORE than a Monument–to our fallen Veterans in the six county region of Central Florida.
Jerry E. Pierce, President, CFVMPF