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Memorial to war dead is dedicated

The county's octagon-shaped memorial pays tribute and lists the names of 72 who gave their lives in four wars.

The purpose of Saturday's ceremony, Jack Kinney explained to the more than 200 people gathered at the West Pasco Government Center, was simple:

"To dedicate this memorial to our fallen brethren who were taken from us while they were Pasco residents," Kinney said.

Kinney, a Navy veteran who has worked on Pasco's veterans memorial for more than two years, led Saturday's dedication ceremony, which was punctuated by a rifle salute and the playing of taps. The octagon-shaped, 8-foot-tall memorial bears the names of 72 Pasco residents who gave their lives in the two World Wars and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Kinney said he hoped the memorial will be a comfort to the relatives of the veterans whose names are etched in its granite.

"We hope this lessens their grief and brings them closure," Kinney said.

For Faye Shorter, whose brother was killed in Vietnam, Saturday's ceremony brought some comfort.

"It'll never bring closure for me, but it helps."

The hourlong ceremony featured several speakers, including Sheriff Lee Cannon, who served in the Navy. Cannon thanked all the veterans and volunteers who worked on the memorial, which he said enabled him to say to those who died: "You're home, and we're going to take care of you."

Many in the audience were in full military dress, and others wore the hat of their branch of service. When the American flag was folded, more than 100 hands were raised in salute.

Rear Adm. Thomas W. Steffens of the Navy, the director of the Intelligence and Operations Center of the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, was Saturday's keynote speaker.

"I thought after 31 years I understood all this . . . that I knew the price of freedom," Steffens said. But when his son on a recent school trip to Normandy visited the military cemetery and then described to his father the rows of headstones dedicated to fallen veterans, Steffens said he gained a new perspective.

"When I saw the sacrifices of those veterans through the eyes of my children, I understood what it is all about," Steffens said.

The concept of the memorial was started in 1988 by Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells, then a county commissioner. In its original form, the memorial was to be incorporated into the West Pasco Government Center when it was built in 1994. But that didn't happen, and in 1997, a group of local veterans agreed to resurrect the idea. The memorial was built using donations, and the County Commission contributed up to $25,000 in matching funds. Trinity Memorial Gardens arranged for all the granite for the memorial, which rests between the flagpoles in front of the government center.

_ Staff writer Matthew Waite contributed to this report.

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