SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY


🇺🇸   WE SUPPORT THE TROOPS     🇺🇸

OUR FOUNDATION HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT THE TROOPS


IN MEMORY OF RICHARD LEANDRI

For almost thirty-five years,  I have had the privilege and honor of working with a select group of people who have dedicated their efforts to recognize the efforts of and the sacrifices of our military.   It all started when I was introduced to a gentleman by the name of Richard Leandri, who was a well known Realtor and Community leader in Clearwater, Florida.  

Tom Falone, a friend introduced me to Richard, telling me we had something in common, and we hit it off both believing in the same things about our country,  the military, and how we could contribute. It was through Richard I met Ellie Scarfone, aka known as Richards Goddaughter.   It has been a privilege to know her for more than thirty -five years and a lot of projects.

The Special Forces of the United States, namely the Army Rangers, the SEALS and other specialized units hadn’t received any recognition for the work, honor and sacrifice required of their organization, their purpose in a changing world and of course the reason, secrecy was number one.   But as news of their exploits came to the surface, it was time to recognize the sacrifices these men and women deserved, those who worked in the night and  left no footprints.

Training alone resulted in several deaths but were well kept under wraps.  They train as they fight and this was and is dangerous work and with the expansion of our military into the covert actions of the battlefield today, even more so.


RICHARD  - AKA THE GODFATHER OF THE RANGERS
Richard, one man, changed all that.  Through contacts and friends he became well know as the God-Father of the Special Operations personnel who can’t exactly give away information and the military can’t applaud itself, so Richard found another way of letting the public see what they do with the building of the Military Memorial in LARGO, FL’s   main park, dedicated to all branches.

It continued on with Richards Organization called “ The Chairborn Rangers”.   A group of individuals, some with prior military training, a few dubious individuals who took it serious, raised funding and in many cases hard labor to bring their exploits and at times professionalism to the forefront.  A motley crew but did their job well.

Immediately their work started on The Ranger Memorial at Fort Benning and the organization of the Ranger Games, a yearly competition seen on ESPN.  It was followed up by the building of the beautiful SOCOM Memorial built on MacDill Air Force Base.  

Richard was a mover and shaker, he knew everyone and everyone new him as a successful realtor and developer in Clearwater.  But his strongest suit was his love of the Military, when he passed,  a Memorial plaque was dedicated and hangs in the entrance of the Special Operations Command Building at MacDill recognizing the man who recognized them. 

In the photo you’ll see Al Jacobs presenting Richard Leandri the Golden Grenade Gavel in recognition of his devotion to the Military and especially the Rangers.  It was in hope that Richard could get even more attention to the cause of supporting our troops with this symbolic gesture.

Ironically and unfortunately, a few days later Richard passed on from a massive heart attack at Ft. Benning soon after the Ranger Games. He died where he wanted to be with his beloved Rangers.


RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!!!
Mr. Richard A. (Dick) Leandri was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame for his dedicated support to the US Army Rangers.  Mr. Leandri established and activated the “  Chairborne Rangers” in 1980, and served as the Commanding Officer of Military Affairs. 

The Chairborne Rangers" are a group of concerned business and professional men who support the military and sponsor the prestigious "David E. Grange, Jr., Best Ranger Competition" annually at Fort Benning, Georgia. Mr. Leandri  contributed immensely to the sponsorship, support, and design of the Ranger Memorial.  Mr. Leandri also established and founded the "Shuffstall Award" which honors the drill sergeant of the year at Fort Benning.

Mr. Leandri was deeply involved in community and civic affairs and was the recipient of over 70 awards for service, including the Sertoma Club’s "Service to Mankind" award, the Exchange Club's "Book of Golden Deeds" award, and the National Secretaries Association's "Boss of the Year" award. 

He received many awards from law enforcement and the military, including the American Defense Citation for outstanding service to the military, awarded by the Secretary of the Army. Mr. Leandri’s contributions and dedicated support to the Rangers are in keeping with the highest traditions of selfless service. The dedication was completed for the:


SOCOM MEMORIAL LOCATED ON BASE
  


THE US CENTCOM MEMORIAL FOUNDATION

The Centcom Memorial Foundation was formed and the three principals worked together from the beginning which was before 911.  The three of us, were there from day one, more than decade and a half.  Our work was slowed by a war, the longest war our country has seen.   In particular,  let me introduce:

Ms. Ellie Scarfone   President and Leader
Alan Jacobson, VP, Secretary and Operations
Mr. David Troup,  Treasurer  and  Financial Planning   

As established we were a non-profit, Federal and Florida State registered organization, in compliance with code 501 [C] [3] established in 2001.  We were publicly funded, and accepted donations for the building of a 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.  All of the funds have been raised by donation. 

Our organization is and always has been dedicated to 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

THE LONGEST PROJECT
War does stretch things out a bit.  Attacks on civilians in other countries and potential sappers and terrorists on our own soil promulgated more extreme levels of security. The changes in base admittance policies for security reasons, and numerous regulations caused delays after delays.  A review of base passes for us to do our work was crippling.

Several security violations, on a higher level added to the concerns.  Gate intercept of vehicle with weapons, shooting at the main gate, homeless woman beating the devices and made it on the property several times.  She should be hired and work for the air Force Security Team. 

But it was the national press with some rather bad publicity concerning the Generals and party favors.  Several upscale hob-nabbers ( Kelly sisters) entertained the hierarchy of our Military with parties and social gatherings. Those civilians were who had access to the base, literally unlimited with titles, and phony diplomatic titles. 

It went deeper with the scandal involving a General (Petraeus) and his writer,  The result that 2500 of MacDills real supporters in Tampa bay got cut in half, many of those had worked on various projects supporting the military, and the fun gang was disbanded. 

But several of us who were doing great work for the base for thirty years somehow got dumped, and had to get repercussion from the DOD and the FBI checks again.  Based on what I did for them, I probably have been checked more that twenty five times and had to go through it again.  

Bottom line is access for civilians as we had envisioned it was not on the table, the base remains at a higher level of security.   The war added new security levels, changes of command were like the seasons, adding transfer, rotational deployments,  And the toughest hit was dealing with the DOD’s new regulations basically closing access for civilians,  it took its toll in time.


BOTTOM LINE:  The changes dictated by the DOD, which affected the basic goal we wished to accomplish which was an Open Memorial for the Civilian Community to experience, was not going to happen.  

We completed the open arm rotunda, the origional plan.  Thus our job is done, and we wish the very best for those who will follow…in supporting the families of the fallen,  and hope the CENTCOM Memorial as it stands will serve its purpose.   The security issues, even for good people and families of the honored could not have access without assistance made changes untenable.  


MacDill AIR FORCE BASE CENTCOM MEMORIAL AND PARK



THE MILITARY SERVICE MEMORIAL - INVERNESS FLORIDA

When one door closes, it seems another door opens,  a year ago we found we have a new beginning and new project.  After our president, Ellie Scarfone met with Frank DeGiovanni, City Manager of Inverness, a town known for its love of the military, conversation led to cooperation on a level we were not used to.  They were looking for enhancement, we had experience and product, experience and they were willing to put it all together, graciously.   

Thus a Military Service Memorial, with all the essence of what we were about,  and what the city was about,  and with their  councils approval the die was cast.  Our Memorial Foundation would work with the City to build the Military Service Memorial.

In cooperation with the city of Inverness Florida, at the beginning of the year ( sometime around January 20, 2018) we will be Unveiling a New City Park and Memorial to those who served in our country’s wars. 

In the photo below our team met with City Manager Frank DiGiovanni, our organizations President Ellie Scarfone, Treasurer David Troup,  Vice President /Sec/Operations  Alan Jacobson and we unveiled the statues we will be presenting to the city for their new Military Service Memorial Park being built in the middle of town and accessible to all.   

 

IT WAS THE RIGHT PLACE FOR OUR ASSETS 

Inverness is close to the Florida National Cemetery. The Florida National Cemetery is part of the United States National Cemetery system located near the city of Bushnell in Sumter County, Florida.  Administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it encompasses 512.9 acres, and began interments in 1988.

THE STATUES ARRIVE IN INVERNESS
After a  1842 mile trip, crated, and weighing  1100.00+ pounds, the statues arrived in Inverness, Florida to be stored until ready to be moved to the park next to the government building


SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 2018

The Military Service Memorial  for the fallen will be presented today to the public in the Florida City of Inverness.  The city has graciously provided the resources for a new city park located strategically in a very high traffic area where it will be seen, open to and experienced by all, 24/7/365.

It is close to the hallowed ground of the  Florida National Cemetery located in Bushnell Florida, next  to highways 41 and 44 on the side of the government center building in a beautiful new park.  

INVERNESS WAS CHOSEN:  It is this proximity to the FNC cemetery, supported by an incredibly large community of military, civilian retirees, and a very progressive city government that moves forward on things, the town of Inverness Florida, made the selection for our project simple. 

From start to finish the project went as planned and the results exemplify the cooperation, efforts, perfection and belief in what was the final goal, the recognition of the those who served.


B
urial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran. 

Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial. 


DEDICATION 
The unveiling of the monument in Inverness was on JANUARY 20, 2018.  Located almost in the center of town in a great little city.  It was voted into greatness by and designated a “Gateway Community” by the Florida Trail Association. 

Since 1995, Inverness has been recognized as a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation and the US Forest Service. In 2009, Inverness was named “City of the Year” by the Forty and Eight, a national veterans’ organization.   

Incredible, as a population under 8000 but always something to do and a very active town, something going on, concerts and the likes with a fair amount of space there is always a seat at the table in some great little eating spots. Lots of mom and pop places with great food.  It is also one of the fastest growing communities in Florida with all kinds of great things soon to happen.

The City of Inverness designed and built the park for the statues that we donated, it’s really a  major city event, their show and we couldn’t agree more about how well the presentation went .   For the first time in thirty-five years of doing this work for the recognition of our military, our team, Ellie, Alan, and David can sit back and relax knowing the work we did will be appreciated and acceptable to all.  I am proud of our teams effort and closure, and we thank humbly the City of Inverness.  The statues location was paramount to our initial plans for public acceptance and makes the representation easily available to the public. 


THE PROGRAM

•  Greetings by the Mayor of Inverness - Bob Plaisted
•  City Council - Hepfer, Hinkle, Mcbride, Bega, and Ryan

•  Invocation by the City Chaplain Stan Beach
•  Pledge of Allegiance - Cabot McBride
•  National Anthem - Angela Vick

•  Flag Presentation - Ken Hinkle and Junior Marines
•  “Proud to be an American”   Videotron - Lee Greenwood
•  Speaker - Al Zimmerman, Viet Nam Distinguished Helicopter Pilot 
•  Memorial Team - Ms. Ellie Scarfone,   President and Introduced our team David Troup and Alan Jacobson
•  Sculptor Artist - Scott Stearman
•  Closing Remarks - Frank DiGiovanni - “I’m humbled, moved, blown away,” DiGiovanni said at the unveiling. “This is an incredible presentation of the effects of war, and these are lifelike, real-life people brought from the battlefield to Inverness in a memorialized manner. 


CONVERSATIONS OVERHEARD
Ellie Scarfone said. “This is incredibly impressive, I had originally thought it should go to Liberty Park because the 9/11 memorial is there and it’s a larger, more open space”.  “But with the proposed changes the city made to his area, this makes much better sense.   Frank DeGiovanni: “ Sometimes it’s wonderful that things don’t go the way we plan them”.   Look what we have here.   Alan Jacobson Interceded:  “Yes, patience, cooperation, and with a little divine guidance, and lots of patience,  we have exceeded our own expectations”.


MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ON THIS DAY
Welcome to all and Greetings...
What a beautiful day, January 20, 2018!  For our organization it was the culmination of many years of planning these functions for the troops.  Thank you Lord, the weather was with us.  The important people were in attendance, the City Dignitaries, Our Staff, the Veterans and their families to whom we owe so much.  

A dedication, is when we gather in perpetuity by example to celebrate and honor the lives of the Infantry Men and Women of our Armed Forces:

•  Those currently serving today;
•  The heroes who have served us before;
•  And to recognize and never forget those who paid the ultimate price of freedom.
•  We shall never forget those silent warriors, they live on in our memories;
•  Nor the families, the survivors who have endured tragedy and loss.  They are hero’s too, for they have to pick up the pieces and go forth.

•  When we unveiled the Statues,  I envisioned the Phoenix, the beautiful powerful bird that rose from the ashes. The Memorial Statues too have risen from the ashes, but out of a foundry, skillfully crafted with love and meaning, proudly they took to the skies, and the statues are perfection. This is a good day...

•  The setting In this beautiful park and hallowed ground is where it was meant to be.  Inverness deserved the statues for all to see.  Its simple, Inverness loves the Military and the Military loves Inverness.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  And in perpetuity recognizes the best in our causes and a wonderful gift God has given us...FREEDOM.  This is a good day...

•  Our team, Ellie Scarfone, David, and myself represent the organization who brought the statues here, the incredible lifelike work of sculptor Scott Stearman who is here in attendance today, at the dedication.  It is a good day.

•  Though I have been out of the service for 45 years I still remember the things that are important, Duty, Honor, Courage. Few things change your life and make you grow up as much as doing a bit of military time.  I learned a few things in the service. I was young. 

•   A sergeant told me once in the military, you might be young, but you will grow up when you hear the first bullet whiz over your head.   Many of us know that now.  

•  I became a believer,  but I think some kind mandatory service to your country is an essential part of the total development of the youthful citizen.  You want to pay down college credits and go to school, work for it, you serve your country.  And our government has needs and can work out those programs.

•  We can still have a volunteer Army, but all our citizens should be trained as compulsory reserves at the ready.  Or serve in an organization helping others, even  working in infrastructure, schools, teaching , mentoring, making our country better.  Give something back to get something.

•  Service to our nation would avert many of the social problems the kids learn as they get the wrong kind of peer influence from the street.  For our generation, we had our own set of names and values, ”Big Red One”, And units like the 101st and the 82nd Airborne.   They have far more, much more powerful meanings than MS-13. And they should never be forgotten.

•  And lastly I can remember.   “ Nothing is as warm and nurturing as a Drill Sergeant teaching proper table and utensil etiquette when your cuisine is a delicious concoction called SOS and totally and tasty synthetic food called a MRE”.   Oh the joy and wholesomeness when you wake up to Chipped Beef on Toast (SOS)  for the first meal of the day instead of a Sausage McMuffin.   It had meat, we never questioned what kind, it but it had meat.  I hate to admit it,  I do like Sausage Gravy over Buttermilk Biscuits, 

•   And the kids today, can do all the  break dancing they need,  try those moves first on the obstacle course with machine guns rattling over your head.  I remember a lot...  As many of you do...

•   The preservation of life sometimes entails the horrific loss of so much of our national treasures, the men and women, our loved ones, together with so much suffering, the demand of so many young and promising lives!

•   To honor their legacy, we commit ourselves to be more vigilant in our love for others, for our nation, and the cause of freedom, justice and peace throughout the world.   May our nation be a source of blessing to all its people and to the rest of mankind.

•   The statues depict the universal soldier, anyone with time knows regardless of your job, you were at times, the all-branch  Infantry Soldier. They were known by many names, almost a bit of humor, you could be called a G.I. Joe,  a Dogface, a Squabbie, a Squib, Grunt, a Jarhead  and USMC stood for Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children.  

•   We had Flyboys,  Zoomies and Wingnuts.  And our beloved “ Coasties", those whose job is on the line every day working with Homeland Security.  And still the box is not full, there are those who work in the dark and cannot  be recognized for their own safety.

MY POINT IS THIS:
•   Regardless of their job and position in the military, branch, unit, organization, group or command, basic training entailed some form of infantry training. Everyone in the military was an infantryman whether they knew it or not.
And you were expected when needed to assume who and what you were, a soldier.  You can own the skies, own the seas, but it was when the foot soldier on the ground that occupied and ended the war.

•    And when the timing and cause depended on them, they picked up their rifles and took up their positions.  Just ask the Battling Bastards of Bastogne.  Churchill referred to it as America’s greatest land battle.  Courage and conviction prevailed.

•   Of all the changes that have taken place in the military, it the style of war that has changed the most.  It was a war of bombing, huge artillery battles, armies out in the open, massive troop movements and vulnerabilities.  

•   War today is different, it is illusive, deadly, with little distinction between combatants and civilians, unmarked enemies, no regard for women and children, they simply are numbers.  Torturing, beheadings, drownings, rape and murder are accepted and sometimes utilized under the guise of religion.  We call it terrorism, they call it something else....  

•   Currently the Middle East is the longest war in our history and has cost us 7000+ lives and 52,000 wounded requiring in many cases lifetime medical support.  This is a tactic to break the will of the country in proceeding further.  

•   It will not succeed... we are resolute in our course and spirit

•   Lord, the goal you gave us is not to perpetrate war, but to safeguard peace and preserve your great gift to man, which is Freedom.  May you always be near to us to guide us in decisions, comfort us in our failures, and keep us humble in our successes.  May God Bless the troops, may God Continue to Bless the Fallen by providing for their loved ones and may God Bless America.

THE SCULPTOR

THE STATUES

THE DONORS

THE DEDICATION   

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