Orlando veteran’s park pays lasting tribute to fallen soldiers.

Orlando Veteran’s Memorial Park represents a quiet oasis in a major metropolitan area. (Photo by Dave Raith.)

ORLANDO – It’s a quiet oasis in a major metropolitan area — and a very sobering spot as well.
The natural beauty offered there is instantly inviting. There are moss trees all around, and along the lake are pedestrian sidewalks and bike paths. A bit further from the lake is a gazebo to relax in.
It’s a public park where the pictruesque splendor of Lake Baldwin is appealing for an afternoon walk on a mild winter day. But this section of Baldwin Park offers area residents and visitors alike something else: a reflection of the nation’s past, and a tribute to those who made possible the freedom to walk through this park in the first place.
“To those who died, honor and eternal rest,” the monument notes. “To those still missing, remembrance and hope. To those who returned, gratitude and peace.”
There are eight monuments along that pedestrian sidewalk, in a section of the City Beautiful known as Orlando Veteran’s Memorial Park. Dedicated on Dec. 7, 2007 by Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando Veterans’ Memorial Park was created on four acres of land on the north shore of Lake Baldwin, on the border of Orlando and Winter Park.
It is connected to the Lake Baldwin Park trail. Located at 2380 Lake Baldwin Lane, the park hours are from 5 a.m. until sunset daily.
It remains a tribute to not only local veterans, but also to this nation’s history of perseverance in the face of conflict. Continue reading

Military museum looks back at Florida’s unique role in WWII.

The traveling exhibit, “Humanity Beyond Barbed Wire: Hitler’s Soldiers in the Sunshine State,” is now at the Museum of Military History.

FOUR CORNERS – It comes as a real eye-opener for many families, Rob Dent noted, as they learn something remarkable about Florida’s role in the Second World War.
While the Sunshine State did provide a lot of soldiers to fight in the war in Europe, Florida also provided something else: prisoner of war camps for soldiers allied with the Nazi effort.
“It’s very interesting, because the biggest response we get is people saying ‘I had no idea we had prisoner of war camps here in Florida,’ “ said Dent, the director of communications for the Museum of Military History in Four Corners.
“There was a total of just over 40 POW camps here in Florida,” Dent said. “But there were multiple states – Georgia, the Carolinas, and all the way up to the Midwest – with POW camps, and typically they put those camps in rural areas. Although we are no longer considered a rural area — especially Orlando — at that time, the government wanted them away from concentrated populations.”
The prisoners, he added, did not just sit in those camps. They were used in a unique way: to assist Florida’s leading economic engine at the time, which wasn’t tourism or theme parks.
“At that time, there were thousands of prisoners, and they were used for agricultural purposes because so many Florida residents were in the war effort,” Dent noted. “So the prisoners harvested fruit and vegetables. It’s quite an interesting story.”
It’s a history chronicled in a traveling exhibit, “Humanity Beyond Barbed Wire: Hitler’s Soldiers in the Sunshine State,” which is now at the Museum of Military History, located at 5210 W. Irlo Bronson Highway (U.S. 192) in Four Corners. Continue reading

Wreath ceremony honors fallen heroes of past wars.

Jim Nickles leads the ceremony honoring fallen soldiers of past wars, held at Greenwood Cemetery. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

ORLANDO – Across the green field, there were flags flying, and on the ground, wreaths waiting to be placed somewhere.
There was a strong feeling of patriotism at the event, as veterans joined with active duty personnel representing every branch of the Armed Services.
There was also something else clearly in sight, though: the graves and tombstones that can be seen everywhere one looks across Greenwood Cemetery. It was a reminder, Jim Nickles said, of the fact that in defending this nation over the past decades, some soldiers had paid the ultimate price.
“We are gathered here today to remember that we are one nation under one flag, but the freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price,” said Nickles, representing the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the Vice Flotilla Commander of the 17-11 Division 17 Public Education Staff.
Looking out at the large crowd that gathered at Greenwood Cemetery, Nickles said he hoped the children attending this event would come away with an appreciation of what it means to defend one’s nation and the ideals of freedom and democracy.
“To our children, we want you to understand that the freedoms you enjoy today did not come without a price,” he said. Continue reading

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