The ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiling the five fitness stations at Veterans Memorial Park took place on Veterans Day.

By Bethany Mattacchione

On Veterans Day, November 11 at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa, Hillsborough County Consumer & Veterans Services and the Veterans Council of Hillsborough County hosted the 55th annual Veterans Day Tribute.

The event included a special ribbon-cutting ceremony to debut five fitness stations along the park’s recreational trail. Outdoor fitness equipment was funded by a $17,365 donation from the Armed Forces Families Foundation. The fitness stations run along a section of the Tampa Bypass Canal Trail.

The ceremony honored U.S. military service members from all branches of service. The program included keynote speaker Col. Stephen Snelson, commander of the 6th Air Refueling Wing, MacDill Air Force Base; JROTC color guard; a drill performance and tributes from local high schools; rifle salute and taps; Veterans Council awards; and refreshments.

Also, during the ceremony, Operation: REVEILLE, a program that aims to find homes for veterans experiencing homelessness, presented 15 veterans with keys to furnished apartments.

Andrew Morrow, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, was severely injured in basic training years ago and was one of the veterans selected to receive housing.

“I wish all of my veteran brothers and sisters got an apartment. No one should wake up not knowing what they are going to eat that day, where they will sleep, where you’re going to get medical help or if you will be a victim of some crime,” said Morrow.

Morrow found himself homeless after suffering multiple heart attacks that led to an extended stay in the hospital. When he returned home, he discovered that he had been kicked out of his apartment. Though he had family close by, he didn’t want to burden them with caring for him and took to the streets.

“I thank God for being here today. Some people look at it as something to go through; I look at it as a blessing,” said Morrow.

Veterans Memorial Park is located at 3602 US Hwy. 301 N. in Tampa. The park grounds also house a museum and the Veterans Resource Center that serves about 33,000 veterans, survivors and dependents. More information on Operation: REVEILLE can be found at http://thhi.org.