SARASOTA -- With the backing of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, The Patterson Foundation announced Saturday its plan for an enhancement area at Sarasota National Cemetery.
When it’s done the $5.5 million project will provide a 2-acre space and be equipped with shade, seating and art work reflecting the area’s military history.
Crews are expected to get started on the project by next summer. Completion is set for spring 2013.
“America is the land of the free because of the brave,” said Col. Mike Prendergast, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. “This cemetery is a truly befitting final resting place for those brave men and women who have served our nation selflessly in both times of peace and war.”
The Patterson Foundation’s goal is for the cemetery to serve more than a gathering spot for national holidays, but be a part of the community.
Debra Jacobs, foundation president and CEO, said she’d like to see people use the area as a form of reflection and to remember those who have served.
“I want to spark your imagination for a moment,” she said. “When you come over to the enhanced assembly area, people will be able to understand what it’s like to serve our country and understand why freedom does have a cost and is something worth being treasured.”
Local U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., was among those in attendance.
“Nine months ago when they shared this with me I was so excited,” Buchanan said, adding he told his staff earlier in the week that un- less there was a vote on the debt ceiling up in Washington, he would attend the event.
He touched on his enthusiasm to see the project when it is completed and what it will mean for veterans and their families in the community.
“This is clearly going to be world class,” he said.