By Kathy L. Collins

Museums serve the community in many ways from being a source of educational opportunity to a gathering spot for residents of all ages. The Brandon community is on the cusp of having a world class museum right in its backyard with the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum located at 3602 Hwy 301 in Tampa.

The Veterans Memorial Park and Museum Committee (the Committee) diligently works to raise funds to make this dream a reality. You can help its fundraising efforts by attending the Veterans Park Dragon Boat Races on Saturday, November 2 and Sunday, November 3 at Harney Park located at 7115 Hwy 301 N. in Tampa. The races run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday is the National Southeastern Finals. The winner of this race will travel to Italy to represent the United States.

Dragon Boat racing stems from an ancient Chinese tradition. Each Dragon Boat is 42 feet long and has 20 paddlers, a steerperson and a drummer.

The Committee will be responsible for all land-based operations at the races, and funds derived from this will be use to expand the Veterans Park and Museum. Bob Silmser, a member of the Committee said, “We want people to come and watch the Dragon Boat Races. We will have food trucks, beverages, a model of the park and much more at the races.”

At the Veterans Memorial Park, the Vietnam Memorial is complete. During 2013, there will be dedication ceremonies for both the Spanish American War Memorial and the Iraq War Memorial. In January, the Committed Forces Memorial will be dedicated.

Silmser is a retired USAF Vietnam Era Veteran. Silmser said, “I got involved in this project in 2006. I have met so many people in the military. When the opportunity came along to help make a world class Veterans Park and Museum a reality, it was too hard to turn it down.”

When the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum is complete, you will be able to stroll along Freedom Trail and learn about 14 memorials in total.

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