PLANT CITY Robert Knight said he and fellow Vietnam veterans didn’t get much of a reception when they finished their combat tours and returned from the jungles in 1968.
But he felt like his service in the Army was appreciated last week when a brick engraved with his name and years of service was dedicated at Veterans’ Memorial Monument Park.
“It’s good to feel welcome,” said Knight, who retired to Plant City in 1985 after 26 years of service.
Knight was among several veterans who were saluted during a Monday morning ceremony at the park, where a black tarp was pulled back to reveal 24 bricks engraved with the names of local veterans. In all, more than 700 bricks are now on display at the park at 703 N. Wheeler St.
The commemorative bricks cost $150 each and are engraved with the names of veterans, alive and deceased.
Guest speaker Dan Middlebrooks, a retired Army chaplain and major, said the park that includes a flag and granite monument to all armed forces will be a memorial to veterans for generations to come. Middlebrooks grew up in Plant City and returned here after a 25-year military career.
“It was great joy to come home and find a place like this in Plant City,” said Middlebrooks, who is pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church.
The veterans park was established nearly four years ago and includes as its centerpeice “Freedom Rising,” a sculpture topped by a bald eagle.
Retired Air Force Col. Rich Glorioso, another speaker at the ceremony, said he enjoyed living in a city where monuments are dedicated to veterans, not sports heroes or musicians.
“Today we honor those who have given everything” by taking the oath to defend the country, said Glorioso, a former city commissioner and state representative.
The new engraved bricks included one in memory of George W. Joyner, a Plant City farmer who served in the Air Force in World War II and died in 1985. His son, Richard, of Plant City, said he and his sister, Brenda Trammell of Palatka, wanted to pay tribute to their dad.
Their mother, Pauline, died in 2010.
“I think this is a wonderful thing that the city has done here to honor veterans, people who served and those who are serving now. It’s a great way to show our appreciation.”
Here are the 24 veterans honored with engraved bricks: Vernon Cannon, Dann Druen, James E. De Montmollin, Louis Demontmollin, Evelio Gonzalez, Allen Heydrick, Rick Hensley, John P. Jerkins, Bobby Johnson, George W. Joyner, Glenn Kinchen, Robert Knight, Roland Lancaster Sr., Roland Lancaster Jr., C.J. Marcello Jr., Ernest L. Newsom, Clayton Patton, Jack W. Patton, Lee Perez, Earl C. Scott, Randal E. Scott, Daniel Walker, Pete Weicht Jr. and James Wolverton.
To purchase an engraved brick for a veteran, go to www.veteransmonument.com or contact Lisa Browder at (813) 704-5028.