The Inverness memorial dedicated to our soldiers, the last of a series dedicated to our Military Hero's who  deserved recognition for their sacrifices and in memory of  Mr. Richard Leandri  -  who got us started and and all of our Brothers in Arms, and previous supporters both financially and physically from the  “ Chairborn Rangers of  Ft. Benning”   to the  new beautiful park in Inverness Florida and the staff of  the military Memorial Foundation who got it built after seventeen years.  


My exposure to the Military added to my life cycle additional education.  I got an “A “ in obscene verbiage, and techniques, clearances, tactical and technical nukes, radar and confidentialities, terrain reconditioning and sand trap building called bombing, and single finger gestures from the military,.

It broadened my social repertoire, and at the same time my ability to interact with weapons of destruction. “ The bigly ones”.  They were fun and scary  —  great skills but  —  thoughts of glowing in the dark still haunt me —  asking myself what did it all mean and how are we better — what did we accomplish?  I simply think of it as taking out the garbage. 

A percentage of which did not help me, when I got out.  But there were exceptions, like understanding command and control, leading rather than following, organizational planning, and I’m darn good with a rifle, pistol and shotgun, not that I was interested in  law enforcement full time, we all were on a response team, but it had to do with rescues and getting shot down.   

And those processes were good enough years later to enter competition.  I shoot once a month at the range to stay in tune.  And have to, which in today’s chronically sick world is called survival.   A gun never solved a situation, it created new ones — today skilled, old fashioned and confident it’s my back-up since I am a writer who has to tell the truth.  

Thats what in my mind was all about Inverness - I wanted to call it the “ Grunt Memorial “ as it’s all about those who did the ancillary support work for the military, food , supplies, ammo and dropped everything and picked up their weapon when the first round flew over and once again a soldier.



Red Tape  —  The Need — And Recognition —  The Special Forces of the United States, namely the Army Rangers, the SEALS, Marine Recon, Air Force Commandos, Coast Guard Rescue Units and other specialized units hadn’t received any recognition for the work, honor and sacrifice required of their organization purposes and of course the reason, secrecy was number one.  This was the situation before the 80’s.

The Special Forces training was tough, you train tough to fight tough.  As in SCUBA diving, you plan your dive and then dive your plan.   And there were fatal accidents in training and never made the headlines due to the secrecy.  There were missions, rescues, removals, destruction that never made the front nor the back page.  As many as seventeen lost their lives in training crashes an accidents.

Enter Richard Leandri  —  Richard  - Aka The Godfather Of The Rangers  —  Our mentor and friend,  Richard Leandri believed this was wrong, they should be recognized and they were due a big thank you for their service.  We had the names of seventeen who had paid the ultimate price before the SOCOM Memorial was built.  

For almost three and a half decades, 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.  

It was through Richard I met Ellie Scarfone, aka known as “  Richard’s Goddaughter.”    It has been a privilege to know her for more than thirty-five years and a lot of work and projects.  her dedication and loyalty has not been surpassed, many not even coming close, she walks the walk, they talk the talk.  

The present, actually before 911 we became the Memorial Foundation, headed by Ellie Scarfone and I became number two.   Handling the “ Operations, much of the building and liaison to the base and the usual Secretarial work”.   Several projects later, ( finding out this was work) lots of change in people, some found out this was more than a name on a board —  they left and we were three and with Ellies leadership we got things done.

After many years, we have completed the latest mission.  The last one after seventeen years of government screw-ups, time delays, the longest war that accomplished nothing in our history, not my job excuses, and being ignored.  Shear  stupidity making a two year project almost two decades.  We asked for nothing and got even less.

This is the story of Memorials, inspired by Richard Leandri, and the latest, The Inverness Military Service Memorial and the small town that did the right thing.  Three of us, have been there from day one, almost thirty-five years supporting our troops working on these projects, it  just amazes me, how fast time goes by — 

We completed and participated in five Memorials to the men and women of  the SEALS, Rangers, Green Berets, Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, Air Force Special Operations and our Coasties who go in harms way every day.

In Memoriam — 

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 a support group known as the Chairborne Rangers in 1980, and served as the Commanding Officer of Military Affairs. 

The Chairborne Rangers were a group of concerned business and professional men who supported the military and sponsored 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:

Mr. Leandri's contributions and dedicated support to the Rangers are in keeping with the highest traditions of selfless service.    Richard, one man, started and 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 main park, dedicated to all branches. That was the beginning.

It continued on with Richards Organization, 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.  They were called the “ Chairborne Rangers”.   A motley crew but did their job well.  This was a crew who most First Shirts, reference to a senior NCO  would ask   “ What the hell are they up to now”  Richards favorite expression was: 

 “ Its Better To Beg For Forgiveness Than Ask For Permission” 

Believing in the axiom, The group went full bore and completed the work on The Ranger Memorial at Fort Benning and the organization of the Ranger Games, a yearly competition seen on ESPN. 

The next project was 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. 

We recognized our own.  In the photo you’ll see, I am  presenting Richard Leandri with the Golden Grenade Gavel in recognition of his devotion to the Military and especially the Special operators.

It was in hope that Richard could get even more attention to the cause of supporting our troops with this symbolic gesture.  It would definitely draw attention when calling meetings to order — 

Ironically and unfortunately,  a few days later Richard passed on from a massive heart attack while we were at Ft. Benning soon after the Ranger Games that year. 

He died where he wanted to be  — with his beloved Rangers during the time we were attending the games.  Ironic but it would have been what Richard wanted, he was a great compassionate man.

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.  

The Ranger Games — Competition  —  Trade Shows And Camaraderie — 

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  —   2001-2018  — Seventeen Years of Dedication 

🔘   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 seventeen years.  Our work was slowed by a war, the longest undeclared war our country has seen.  Till the last man came home in 2021, 2600 killed and 3700 contractors killed.  Almost two decade slater and a change of venue three of us completed the commission of recognition, in particular,  let me introduce:

Ms. Ellie Scarfone,  President and Leader, Vision and Planning
Alan Jacobson, VP, Secretary and Build Operations, Shovel in Hand, Maintenance 
Mr. David Troup,  Treasurer  and  Financial Planning, And Implementation  

🔘   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.

🔘   War does stretch things out a bit.  We are engaged in a war with no end it seems.  Attacks on civilians in other countries and potential sappers and terrorists on our own soil promulgated more extreme levels of security at the base. The changes in base admittance policies for security reasons, and numerous regulations caused delays after delays.  

🔘   We learned the hard way.  The real problem stems from a  broad “ Not on my orders attitude”  since the Air Force owns the base,  The Special Operations Command  (SOCOM)  and The central Command ( CENTCOM) are  renters plus about ten lesser commands.   It was like dealing with a Home  Owners Association,  if you are a renter, no voting privileges.

🔘   The base engineers had no clue,  whatsoever when a billion dollars came down to upgrade the base and we were civilians donating a million dollar project plus to (unknown it seems) but relatively unknown.   We were not on the bottom of the list, not even on the list.We learned our lesson, don’t build on government property, and avoid anything involving the DOD. 

🔘   Adding to the mess, several security violations, occurred on the base on a higher level added to the concerns.  A big increase in security changed the game.  There was a gate intercept of vehicle with weapons,  A shooting by an intruder at the main gate, a homeless woman beating the devices and made it on the property several times.  

🔘    The billion dollars?  The base added two new buildings, new roads, a new hospital and a new security parameter, bollards and underground defensive protection for the Joint Building and the Centcom building.  Time kills projects, costs doubled and even rebar.  We were losing our revenue by inflation.   The steel rods you see in concrete suddenly became gold.   Something the alchemists have wanted to do for ages. 

🔘   We could not add additional funding because it required soliciting the DOD and Congress and that meant three to five years and probably like last time,  they’ll lose the paperwork.  Twice, we resent a lot. 

All Hell Broke Loose —  The Kelly Affair  — And Security — National Scandal

⚉   But it was the national press with some rather bad publicity concerning the Generals and party favors.  Several upscale hob-nabbers —  The Kelly Sisters —  entertained the hierarchy of our Military with parties and social gatherings.   

⚉   The Kelly’s civilians  had access to the base, literally unlimited with phony diplomatic titles and favors secured from the General Staff.  

⚉   Socialite Jill Kelley was a member of “Friends of MacDill,” a loose-knit group through which she met Mr. Petraeus when he was an Army general and commanded U.S. CentCom. 

⚉   She also befriended Marine Gen. John Allen, who served there as Deputy Commander.

⚉   MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., is scrubbing its list of 800 civilian “friends” to head off any future embarrassments in the wake of former CIA Director David H. Petraeus’ sex scandal.   

⚉   Also the Pentagon inspector general is investigating thousands of pages of emails between Mrs. Kelley and Gen. Allen from 2010 to 2012. Gen. Allen continued the email communication while in his current four-star post as commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

⚉   But severe damage meant something else to the DOD and us.   It only took us seventeen years to complete and save the project thanks to the publicity and revoking of yearly gate and access passes, it reached a point getting on base to finish a million dollar project did not treat us so kindly.

⚉   With the result that MacDills real supporters in Tampa bay who had base privileges ( strictly admittance) got cut in half, many of those who had worked on various projects supporting the base.   Since our project was not kin to anyone, we were independent, we were tossed from base passes.  And had to go through the process. 

⚉    Now, several of us who were doing great work for the base for thirty years somehow got dumped, and had to get permission from the DOD and the FBI checks again.  I have been checked about ten or fifteen times.  And they knew nothing about it.  Since as volunteers we got no support from the Command.   

⚉   Based on what I did for them,  I probably have been checked adding previous projects more that twenty-five times and had to go through it again.  It dragged on and on and we could not get anything done —  Then more lost paperwork from the DOD. 

⚉   Bottom line for the advanced programs we designed.  Memorial at MacDill was based on plan to have  ACCESS FOR CIVILIANS as we had envisioned it.  The increased security killed that idea. It  was not on the table, the base remains at a higher level of security and any event or projects required more red tape and red ink than a banner parade in Moscow.  

⚉   And the toughest hit was dealing with the DOD’s new regulations basically closing access for civilians, that killed our proposed second attempt at fulfillment as improvements would not account against initial costings.  So we finished what we could, we could not attain access for the project for Civilians.  

The main drive was to familiarize the Community of the work and sacrifice by the men and women of these Commands and that security literally killed the project. With tours and escorted bus trips for school children showing our greatest assets and future careers within the military it would have been perfect.   Now it could never happen.

⚉    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 for us to add the additional embellishments and upgrades.   

⚉    Where there is a will there is a way — years later INVERNESS --





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