The Charlotte County Veterans Council has scheduled a Veterans Day Ceremony for 11 a.m., Nov. 11 at the William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park, 20499 Edgewater Drive in Port Charlotte.
The ceremony will include a joint color guard and a groundbreaking for memorials dedicated to veterans and first responders. The First Responders Memorial will honor Charlotte County first responders including sheriff, police, firefighters and EMTs. The Military Service Memorial will honor all veterans of U.S. military services. Both memorials will be topped by eternal flames.
The ceremony will also feature a special check presentation to assist in funding the memorials.
William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park is named for Charlotte High School graduate and U.S. Marine William R. Gaines, Jr., who was killed in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. The park is dedicated to honoring veterans and first responders.
A multi-phase improvement project is underway. Phase 1 improvements to the park, including entrance monument signs and a kayak launch, have been funded with a $500,000 contribution from the William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Fund and the voter-approved 1% local option sales tax. Phase 2 Improvements to the park completed in 2020 include a secondary access drive from Edgewater Drive, additional parking, a military-themed handicapped accessible playground, a pavilion, sidewalks, and security lighting.
Phase 3 improvements will include the construction of nature trails, elevated boardwalks, education signage and kiosks and fitness equipment throughout the park. Phase 3 is funded with a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and is awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Phase 4, funded with $4.5 million in 1% local option sales tax money approved by voters in November 2020, will include two new group pavilions, exercise trails, fitness equipment, a tennis court, four pickleball courts, two bocce courts, a 2,400-sq-ft. splash pad, restroom, a community building, and additional parking.
The first responder and veterans memorials are funded with donations to the foundation. Future plans call for the construction of a Beirut Peacekeeper Memorial Tower.