SARASOTA -- Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery and the Veterans Legacy Summit -- both planned, funded and carried out by The Patterson Foundation -- have earned notice from the The White House.
Not only did President Barack Obama issue a proclamation saluting the works of the foundation, but Col. Steve Parker, executive director of Joining Forces, served as keynote speaker Saturday morning.
Joining Forces was launched by first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill
Biden in 2011 as an initiative to rally Americans around service members, veterans, and their families to ensure they have the tools to succeed in life.
The initiative seeks support through wellness, education and employment opportunities.
"These two ladies are passionate about this initiative. It's unique that they partner with each other," Parker told an audience that gathered at Florida Studio Theatre for a series of workshops and panel discussions.
"What The Patterson Foundation has done working with the Department of Veteran Affairs is unprecedented," Parker said.
To wit, to design and construct a $12 million, 2,800-seat amphitheater and then to donate it to the National Cemetery Administration. There is nothing like it in any of the nation's other 130 national cemeteries.
"This is the kind of action that Joining Forces seeks to promote," Parker said.
Principals of Joining Forces include: 1) Honoring the service of armed forces members in war and in peace; 2) Amplifying the challenges and opportunities that accrue from service; 3) Sustaining the gains of the post 9/11 generation, including eliminating homelessness among vets; and 4) Understanding that communities are the key to service, he said.
"The federal government can't do it all, but we have a role to play," Parker said.
Debra M. Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, said afterward that the Veterans Legacy Summit, shined a light that was seen in the nation's capital.
"We should never underestimate the power of community," she said.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.