On Friday, January 15, 2021 a group of local citizens, along with city and county officials gathered at the courthouse for the unveiling of a monument dedicated to five Hernando County men who gave their lives in service to our country. The monument was donated by members of the Lowman Family Foundation.
Brent Lowman, a Marine Corps veteran, himself, and a partner in the Lowman law firm explained how the idea for the monument came to be.
“I was sitting inside the courthouse one day after I got back from my military service and saw a plaque on the wall commemorating Hernando County veterans that had been killed in action since 2004 in the War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I felt we should do more than this, so I spoke to my family foundation and presented them with the idea of a monument to these five that were killed. We designed it and then went to the Hernando County Commission with our plan and they approved it.”
Kasey Kupcik, Hernando County Government Public Information Coordinator welcomed everyone to the ceremony and recognized some of the dignitaries and guests in attendance. Among these were County Commissioner Jeff Holcomb; County Administrator Jeff Rogers; Tobey Phillips, Deputy County Administrator; Sheriff Al Nienhuis; Heidi Coykendall and Christa Tanner, representing State Representative Blaise Ingoglia and U.S. Congressman Daniel Webster’s office, respectively; Pat Brayton, “Butch” Battista, and Blake Bell (Brooksville Mayor, Vice Mayor, and City Council member, respectively); Brooksville City Manager Mark Kutney; Shirley Anderson, Supervisor of Elections; and Jimmy Lodato, Hernando County School Board member.
Members of Marine Corps League 708 presented the colors and Ashleigh Dudek, a Springstead High School student, sang the National Anthem.
Then addressing the group was Commissioner Holcomb, a 15-year member of the Active Naval Reserve, who served in the Global War on Terrorism, including Operations Iraqi Freedom and Resolute Support.
“I’ve been very blessed to be a part of all those operations. Bringing the fight to them has kept our shores safe. We need to remember this country on September 12, 2001. That’s when this country was together,” Holcomb stated.
Brent Lowman, in addressing the group, commented, “Hernando County has had a long and proud tradition of service to our country. It is with the deepest respect that we honor the men who made the ultimate sacrifice to their country and our freedom. Let this monument serve as a reminder that these men gave all they had to protect our freedoms and our way of life… that we are still fighting the war on terrorism… that service does not come without sacrifice. I challenge all of us to never forget those that came before us and to raise up a new generation of individuals with the same sense of courage, fortitude and spirit to serve our country and our fellow mankind.”
Then Lowman read out the names of the five men engraved on the monument: USMC (Marine Corps) Sergeant Lea Robert Mills, Army SPC (Specialist) Cody Clark Grater, Army Staff Sergeant Michael Wayne Schafer, Army SPC Justin Dean Coleman, and Army SPC Clarence Williams III.
Dave Harris from Marine Corps League 708, read aloud a stirring poem called “The Box.” This work is attributed to Lascelles Abercrombie, a 20th Century British poet.
While members of Marine Corps League 708 folded the flag, Harris commented on the meaning behind this Flag Folding ceremony in which the American flag is folded into a triangular shape and then handed to the relatives of a deceased serviceman or woman at his or her funeral.
Harris remarked, “Without freedom, there is no honor and without honor, we are not Americans. As long as this flag flies, we will salute it.”
The unveiling revealed a granite monument designed and constructed by Cycadia Monument Company of Palm Harbor. The accompanying bronze statue was sculpted by a company in Alaska with the assistance of Day Metal Products of Brooksville.
The ceremony, although somber, was also a celebration of our country and its veterans, as well as a reminder that no matter what divides us, we are still the UNITED States of America.
“The Box” by Lascelles Abercrombie
Once upon a time, in the land of Hush-A-Bye,
Around about the wondrous days of yore,
They came across a kind of box
Bound up with chains and locked with locks
And labeled “Kindly do not touch; it’s war.”
A decree was issued round about, and all with a flourish and a shout
And a gaily colored mascot tripping lightly on before.
Don’t fiddle with this deadly box, Or break the chains, or pick the locks.
And please don’t ever play about with war.
The children understood. Children happen to be good
And they were just as good around the time of yore.
They didn’t try to pick the locks Or break into that deadly box.
They never tried to play about with war.
Mommies didn’t either; sisters, aunts, grannies neither
‘Cause they were quiet, and sweet, and pretty
In those wondrous days of yore.
Well, very much the same as now,
And not the ones to blame somehow
For opening up that deadly box of war.
But someone did. Someone battered in the lid
And spilled the insides out across the floor.
A kind of bouncy, bumpy ball made up of guns and flags
And all the tears, and horror, and death that comes with war.
It bounced right out and went bashing all about,
Bumping into everything in store. And what was sad and most unfair
Was that it didn’t really seem to care
Much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.
It bumped the children mainly. And I’ll tell you this quite plainly,
It bumps them every day and more, and more,
And leaves them dead, and burned, and dying
Thousands of them sick and crying.
‘Cause when it bumps, it’s really very sore.
Now there’s a way to stop the ball. It isn’t difficult at all.
All it takes is wisdom, and I’m absolutely sure
That we can get it back into the box, And bind the chains, and lock the locks.
But no one seems to want to save the children anymore.
Well, that’s the way it all appears, ’cause it’s been bouncing round
for years and years
In spite of all the wisdom wizzed since those wondrous days of yore
And the time they came across the box,
Bound up with chains and locked with locks,
And labeled “Kindly do not touch; it’s war.”