Service Memorial at Rotary Camp in Tampa

Text and pictures by Jerome Kirkland

This memorial is located on the Rotary Camp Florida, in Brandon Florida. Situated in the central gathering point outside the dinning facility it is shaded by trees with benches and picnic tables surrounding it and can be at the center of busy activity or a place of quiet contemplation. The camp is run by the Rotary Club of Florida for underprivileged and handicapped children and is funded by the rotary clubs fund raising campaigns and matching government grants.

The memorial was initially conceived of by the local U.S. Navy Seabee reservists in Tampa, Florida who had been working at this rotary club camp, on their drill weekends, as a training exercise in construction and maintenance. The flag pole was originally at the local Navy reserve unit until a new facility was built on a nearby air force base. The Navy Seabees got permission to relocate the flag pole to the camp as the one the camp had was unusable and the one from the old reserve unit was to be discarded. Before the pole could be moved the reserve unit got called to active duty and sent to Iraq as part of operation Iraqi Freedom II.

From March 2004-November 2004 members of Naval Mobil Construction Battalion 14 (NMCB-14), which is comprised of reserve units in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Porto Rico, and specialize in construction, helped support the coalition effort and reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure. During this period MNCB-14 lost 7 members and had over 20 wounded in mortar attacks and convoy ambushes. One member lost was from the Tampa Florida unit and had done work at the camp. The local Seabees decided to dedicate the flag pole to their fallen comrade, however, as is often the case when a lower level group has a good idea, a higher level group took over, increased its size and expanded it to include all members lost. To better display it they decided on a more prominent location at the newly completed Navy Reserve Center. They also hired an outside civilian contractor to do the work.

As a result, with the permission of the camp owners for recognition of the over two years of volunteer work performed by the Navy Seabees, members of the local reserve unit pitched in their own money to purchase the plaque and materials to complete this small memorial themselves. In May of 2005 this quiet shaded spot with nearby seating was dedicated to all service members in the name of the Tampa Florida detachment of NMCB-14 with the purpose of reminding the future generations that will see it while attending camp that freedom is not free. With its location at a camp for kids it serves as a reminder that service members are from and a part of the community and can be found anywhere. At the time of this posting there is an effort underway to complete the memorial as originally conceived, to include a rock or masonry pedestal with traditional navy rope and stanchions on three sides. This effort was put on hold when elements of the reserve unit were again called up to support forces in the Middle East.

This shows an overview of the monument at the base of the flag pole. With the shade trees and seating it can be a quiet place of contemplation. The building in the background is the main meeting hall at the camp, and out of frame to the left is the dinning facility. This means that at certain times of the day this can be the very busy center of activity of the camp..
This is an overview of the flag pole with the monument at its base. The small building in the background is the laundry facility. The dinning facility is out of frame to the left and the meeting hall is out of frame to the right..
The memorial at the base of the flag pole. Decorated with flags and flowers placed by the camp staff and visitors it shows that the memorial and those it is dedicated to are not forgotten by those who see it..

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