Thursday, Aug. 7, was a remarkable and historic day in Dunedin, Tampa Bay, Florida and our country. It will be remembered as the day the first Purple Heart Monument was dedicated in our country as a thank-you and remembrance to our American veterans.
Dunedin will be remembered as the first Purple Heart City (designated by the national Military Order of the Purple Heart), with the hope that all of the remaining 49 states will each designate one special city in their state to honor our veterans and Purple Heart recipients.
It was Danny Sowder, a local veteran, who led the cause for his city to be our nation's first to recognize and honor our service men and women who are awarded a Purple Heart by our country. It was Mr. Sowder's passion and commitment, along with a cooperative Dunedin City Commission and staff, that enabled the completion of the monument and Purple Heart Park located in downtown Dunedin at Main Street and Broadway.
I stood in the crowd with a special sense of pride that Dunedin made the right decision to be a national leader. My attendance was to honor my father, Robert (Bob) Daniels. Dad was the youngest of six children who were first-generation Americans. Living in Reading, Pa., with a widowed mother, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942 at the age of 19.
Dad was a metalworker who was sent to the Philippines to defend our nation from the Japanese. Along with his buddies and the native Filipinos, he constructed roads and bridges and designed camouflage for the American aircraft so they would be protected from the enemy. Dad was shot during a skirmish with the Japanese and when he returned home he was awarded the Purple Heart.
He was an everyday kind of guy who returned home to a new America after World War II. He married, had a family of four and worked very hard to take care of his wife and children. He hoped that the world would be safe from terrorism and tyranny and that his children would never have to experience war like he did. Bob Daniels had a personal understanding of the importance of having a strong military defense to protect his family and all other Americans.
As a public school student, it was regular and routine that I learned about how important our national defense was so we could enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of religion and our other freedoms. Today, those freedoms are being challenged, as is our national safety.
This is why we should all be proud that we have the first Purple Heart Monument in Dunedin.
We need to thank our veterans for their commitment and their service. We need to thank every man and woman who wears our military uniforms for doing their jobs and keeping us safe. We need to thank the many thousands of military families whose relatives are "on the line" defending us from our enemies. We need to thank our elected officials who vote for and support programs that assist our military, both while on duty and when they return home.
We need to remember our history to ensure we do not repeat any mistakes that can jeopardize our freedoms and our safety.
Engraved bricks honoring and memorializing Purple Heart recipients are now available by calling (727) 298-3010. Look for my dad's commemorative brick on the walkway to the monument. Dad died in 2004 at the age of 81. I know he'd be very proud to be among those being honored near the monument.
Scott Daniels is a Clearwater resident.