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The underwater Circle of Heroes memorial off the Pinellas coast takes shape

A statue is lowered into the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, July 18, 2019. The first 12 statues, forming the nationÕs first underwater dive memorial honoring veterans, were lowered into place Thursday. Photo courtesy of Preston Rudie
A statue is lowered into the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, July 18, 2019. The first 12 statues, forming the nationÕs first underwater dive memorial honoring veterans, were lowered into place Thursday. Photo courtesy of Preston Rudie
Published Jul. 20, 2019

You can't see them yet, but the heroes have arrived: a dozen 6-foot concrete statues that were recently lowered 40 feet underwater to their new home on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

They will form the new Circle of Heroes memorial about 10 miles off the Pinellas County coast. It will serve as an underwater monument and therapeutic dive site for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and depression.

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The statues depict members of the U.S. military and will be placed in a 100-foot circle. At the center will be a 4-foot high, 3-ton monument that will display bronze emblems of the five military branches.

The underwater memorial was conceived by Heywood Mathews, a longtime St. Petersburg College oceanography professor who started the Pinellas County Artificial Reef program.

A dedication ceremony is set for Aug. 5, but until then divers and boaters are asked to stay away from the area as work continues. Organizers hope to add another 12 statutes to the circle next year.

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