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Veterans leading fund drive for state WWII memorial

The memorial will include traveling and permanent exhibits at a museum in Tallahassee.

By JULIE HAUSERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- When his budget ax swung last year, Gov. Jeb Bush cut funding for a project dear to the hearts of Florida's 600,000-plus World War II veterans: a World War II memorial.

Bush said the state shouldn't spend taxpayer dollars on the memorial until a plan was in place and private fundraising started.

Now, veterans are kicking off a $2.6-million fundraising drive, and St. Petersburg businessman Andy Hines has volunteered to lead it.

Hines, a World War II veteran and former prisoner of war, is the retired chairman of Florida Progress, the parent company of Florida Power Corp.

Hines could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Florida Veterans Affairs Secretary Robin Higgins announced that Hines and Tallahassee lobbyist Bill Hebrock will spearhead the effort. Hebrock is a major Republican Party fundraiser.

Some 248,000 Floridians served in World War II. But today, Florida is home to more than 600,000 World War II veterans -- more than any other state, Higgins said.

The memorial will be a "living" one, Higgins said, with a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee to be opened in 2002, and traveling exhibits across the state, tentatively beginning Dec. 7, 2001. The effort also will include classroom materials so that today's kids learn about the sacrifice veterans made during World War II.

"With each passing generation, there's less recognition of the incredibly heroic nature of the World War II generation," Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday. "Younger people don't understand the commitment and sacrifice that took place."

So far, just $50,000 has been collected.

"We've got a long way to go," Higgins said.

Anyone interested in donating to the World War II memorial can obtain more information by logging onto the Internet at www.floridavets.org.

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