The first underwater memorial honoring U.S. veterans has started to take shape off the Florida coast, where 12 of 24 life-size statues have been placed in the Gulf of Mexico.
The “Circle of Heroes” memorial is a one of a kind exhibit, consisting of 24 concrete statues of Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Coast Guard men and women service members, and located 10 miles off the coast of Dunedin Beach in Florida, Military Times reported.
The memorial is organized as a 100-foot wide circular arrangement of 24 statues, which are facing a pentagon-shaped monument bearing bronze emblems on all five sides. Each six-foot statue is held in place by 2,000-pound bases, and placed around 40 feet deep in the water
Built as a memorial, the Circle of Heroes will also be a tourist attraction, as well as a “therapeutic place for disabled veterans suffering from PTSD, depression and trauma,” the Tampa Bay News reported.
The statues will also “become an artificial reef to help sustain marine life in the Gulf waters.”
Here is what the statues will look like underwater:
Florida Former Rep. David Jolly raised the money for the venture because of his support for his uncle, who thought of the idea. He was able to assist through his nonprofit organization, Brighter Future Florida
Jolly’s uncle, Heyward Mathews said he “just wanted something that was going to be permanent and also wanted something that was going to honor our veterans in a unique and different way.”
Mathews is a scuba diving instructor and oceanographer, which inspired his vision.
“He had this vision of an artificial reef for a memorial to honor veterans. About 20 years ago, a permit was issued, and he laid essentially a traditional artificial reef … put a plaque saying ‘this is to honors our veteran. But he always wanted to do a memorial like this, so we teamed up when I left office,” Jolly told the Miami Herald.
John David White, director of Brighter Future Florida said a group of veteran amputees will be the first to view the memorial.
“It’s a dive destination — yes. But it’s also going to give back to the veterans that may be able to benefit from it,” White said. “It’s so humbling to see something that honors our veterans, to have something locally on our coasts. … It’s very special.”
A dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony are scheduled for early August.
While the work continues, it is requested that the media and public do not come near the site for safety precautions.
Once the memorial is open to the public, visitors will be able to view it by scuba diving below the surface, or view it from above by snorkeling.