When the majority of people retire, they spend most of their time engaging in personal pursuits such as golfing, fishing, traveling, hobbies, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with that, in Spring Hill, there’s a dedicated group of mostly retirees who spend a lot of their time helping veterans. These are the men and women of the Glen Lakes Veterans and Friends Association (GLVFA).
Over the past few years, they’ve raised more than $250,000, which they’ve donated to area veterans’ organizations such as the VFW and the American Legion. This 501 c-3 non-profit was founded in 2017 by three veterans−Dennis Blum, George Friel, and Ron Ford−with an inaugural membership of just eight people and is made up entirely of volunteers.
Last year, they decided to erect a Veterans Memorial that would represent four core values: Reflection, Honor, Remembrance, and Recognition. They wanted to provide a place of solace for veterans and visitors to reflect on the service of these men and women. The memorial is a means of honoring our military and remembering what these veterans did for their country. The monument also serves to recognize the sacrifices these men and women made−whether they served overseas in combat or non-combat positions or served stateside.
GLVFA’s goal was to raise $50,000, and in under a year, they reached that goal. Local businesses and individuals got behind this project and helped the organization accomplish its goal. Some donated money, materials, or labor, and some gave substantial discounts on items for the memorial.
For example, the owners of Glen Lakes graciously offered the use of a 2500 square foot (50’ X 50’) piece of property just past the front gate entrance. They have also expressed their willingness to assist in other ways.
One business that contributed greatly to the effort was local stone fabricator Lugo’s Natural Stonework in Spring Hill. Owners Christian Lugo and Tabitha Porras Lugo donated two granite benches at a value of $8,000. They also fabricated and installed the stone pedestals for the flagpoles and the memorial markers that sit at the foot of each flagpole. The United States flag and those of all the military branches will fly from these flagpoles. Each marker has the service logo engraved into the granite facing, as well as the founding year of the service and its motto.
Tabitha Porras Lugo, co-owner of Lugo’s Natural Stonework, remarked, “We were super excited about helping out with the project. Donating the benches is not even close to what veterans have done for this country, and we feel veterans are owed more than what anyone can give. It is a huge honor that God put us in the path with Glen Lakes Veterans.”
Dicky Keane, co-project manager of this enterprise, commented, “Mike Fulford, my co-manager played a big part in getting this done with his background in Hernando County and being an engineer. Christian and Tabitha Lugo were amazing. Christian made the benches himself, and that helped us stay under budget.”
American Legion Post 186 donated replacement flags that will be needed when the current flags are no longer usable.
Although the Glen Lakes Veterans and Friends Association has not determined a date for dedicating the memorial, some of the members gathered there on Memorial Day to raise the military service flags and lower the United States flag to half-staff.
The Veterans’ Memorial is truly a cooperative effort that demonstrates what a community can accomplish when everyone works together. One can only hope that this project sets an example of the power of teamwork and striving in unison for a common cause and that other groups will follow this example.
There are ongoing ways in which people can support the Veterans’ Memorial. You can purchase memorial brick pavers by logging onto the GLVF website: www.glenlakesvets.org. And, of course, money will be needed to maintain the memorial in pristine condition so that future generations can reflect, honor, remember, and recognize these invaluable men and women.