Mark Morse Kills Veterans Celebration and Vietnam Memorial Wall

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Old 03-26-2011, 10:53 PM
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Default Mark Morse Kills Veterans Celebration and Vietnam Memorial Wall

This is a story of a failed attempt to honor our veterans in The Villages, as well as current active local participants serving in the Army Reserve and National Guard, and the children and grandchildren of Villages residents. It included bringing the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall (“The Wall”) to the Villages. It is a case of something that should have been a “No Brainer” being rejected for no apparent reason by Mr. Morse.

Background
In October,2010 two Villages residents who were members of The Community Improvement Council (“CIC”) had a vision. The vision was a celebrationto honor our veterans and those currently on active duty. It was called The Villages Veterans Celebration (“TVVC”), a series of events, which had never been presented before at The Villages. Yes, on every solemn occassion, ie. Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other fitting days a moving and fitting ceremony has been held at the Developer donated Veterans Memorial Park. Yet it did not seem enough.

At the same time it was found out that The Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter #1036 was trying to bring the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall to our great Villages, but they were finding the cost to be prohibitive. It was thought that it would be a great Veterans Celebration to bring the two together. What could be a more appropriate way to honor our Veterans?

Because of the number of Veterans and the proposed size of the event and the size of “The Wall” it was felt that the Polo Field (site of the Golf fest, site of the Christmas Parade, site of the Hoedown ,site of the Horse Pull, etc.) would be the largest, safest and most secure location for this event. A location where people could park their cars or Golf Carts and safely walk to the events, where “The Wall” could be available 24-hours a day for visitation, where Veterans could march proudly in safety, where handicapped Veterans could safely participate, where spectators in the thousands could watch under some protection from the sun, and celebrate our Veterans with parades, exhibits, speeches, food, and music. An event where everyone could safely and respectfully walk to “The Wall” to honor those would fell in the service of our country all in a quiet and serene area away from traffic, honking horns, and trucks.

Because of the proposed participation of area Veterans groups, as well as those, who support our troops the event had a motto – “Together We Care”.

Plans for the Villages Veterans Celebration
With this as a back drop a request was sent to the named contact at the Polo Field to discuss availability, dates, costs, etc. The Villages Entertainment Department (“Entertainment Department”) responded.

Several meetings were set-up with the “Entertainment Department”. They originally were enthuiastically in favor of both “TVVC” and “The Wall”. They proposed to help fund “The Wall” with proceeds from a charity concert to be held in the weeks prior to the event; they proposed a separate “named” concert at the Polo Field to kick off the celebration and a dramatic night-time unveiling of “The Wall” bathed in lights. They checked the Polo Field calendar and found out that someone at The Villages Sales Office had reserved the Polo Field during one of the proposed days for a High School Graduation Party and offered to check whether the party was on or could be moved. They offered to reduce the price for the rental of the Polo Field to $1,500 per day. They offered to make the arrangements with “The Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall” (“The Vendor”) and place a down payment with them. The Entertainment Department offered to pay for a mediation park to be located in front of “The Wall” and equip it with benches, and plants. With this cooperation and excitement in hand the following organizations were contacted and formed a steering committee.
The participating organizations in the TVVC are:
All Military Veterans Group of the Villages
Colonel Phillip C. Delong #1267 Marine Corps League
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10126 (The Villages)
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8083 (Belleview)
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1036 (The Villages)
Retired Military Family Group
American Legion Post 347 (Lady Lake)
Tri-County Woman’s Veterans
Korean War Veterans Association
Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
U.S. Submarine Veterans
Veterans of Underage Military Service
Sumter County Veterans Service
Military Retiree Activities Office
Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)
AMVETS 2006 – Guardians of Freedom
The Villages Memorial Park Honor Guard
Wounded Warriors
World Wide Airborne Club
Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH)
North Lake Detachment of Marine Corps League
As well as Operation Shoebox and USA Cares
No one had brought all these organizations together before. No one even had a list of who, what or where these organizations existed. But Together We Care and care they did.

A Steering Committee was formed that was led by The CIC; a 20 page planning document was developed as a basis for going forward; meetings were held. The Entertainment Department was invited to attend, participate, and provide assistance. However, their enthusiasm was beginning to wane. They did not attend.

The celebration soon grew to include the following events:
- a one-day Villages Veterans Celebration to include a “military”
parade, marching bands, a stage with music from local groups, sponsor
and participating group tents, displays, food vendors, flea market,
speeches, fly-over from vintage planes and just one fun all around day
- a four-day display of the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall, with daily
opening and closing ceremonies, meditation music from local Villages
Groups
- Speeches from 10 retired Generals, many were Villages Residents
- A dinner/dance at Savannah Center
- Displays from the Florida Military Order of the Purple Heart and the
Villages Retired Military Family Group
- A separate “Shadow Walk” sponsored by USA Cares - a Candle light
procession to honor our fallen with a separate parade prior to it with
participation from non-military Villages groups
- A separate ceremony to honor our veterans on June 6 – D-Day
- A request was made inviting the participation of the 82nd Airborne
Chorus

A truly fantastic series of events they involved the cooperation of many, many Villages groups both retired and active military, and non-military. The event was scheduled for a period of June 2 – June 7, 2011.

Most events were FREE. Only the Dinner/Dance would be a fund raiser. Additional funding would come from donations, sponsorships, the Shadow Walk, and program advertising.

The Developer Has Second Thoughts
BUT something was missing. The Mark Morse’s Organizations were hesitating to provide any form of support. First it was proposed that a portion of any money raised would go to Moffitt Center. The Veterans Groups rejected that idea because they felt that there were other worthy causes to help present and future veterans that could use any proceeds or excess donations.

The requirements of “The Wall” required a flat area or lacking that, a platform would be required to be built to mount “The Wall” and keep it level. There were concerns by The Developer that there might be damage to the Polo Field.

The Villages tried to move the site to an area by the Mulberry Plaza near the VA Clinic. Their rational was to encourage people to come to Mulberry and help the merchants out. They felt that this site had the advantage of the use of the VA Clinic parking lot when it was closed. However, this location had major drawbacks- it was off of an active Route 42; there was an active parking lot; streets would have to be closed off for the parade; there was no shade for spectators during the June heat, people attending the parade and people wishing to shop would share the same space and parking, security for “The Wall” and participating tents and other facilities would have to be extensive, a fly-over might cause accidents, people would have to walk down Mulberry Lane, they were bushes that blocked one-side of the parade. People parking in the shopping center or VA Clinic would have to cross an active road.So this proposed site was rejected as just not adequate for a celebration.
Attempts for Approval for Use of the Polo Field
To address the Developer’s concerns several proposals were offered including moving the site of “The Wall” to a location within the Polo Field that had been used in the past for parking. The parade and celebration would continue on or near the main Polo Field.

Copies of the specifications and installation instructions for this Wall were given to the Entertainment Department for forwarding to the Villages Construction Department (“Construction Department”) for their advice and assistance in planning and construction (certainly an organization that has coordinated the building of 50,000 homes, 8 shopping centers, a hospital, 2 Town squares, several artificial lakes could help us install this Wall without damage to the Polo Field).

A request was made to the Entertainment Department to schedule a meet with the various Villages Departments including them, Construction, Public Safety and others to review the plans and solicit assistance.

During this time no paper work was returned to the Vendor, no down payment was made, no date was secured. Finally one member of The Steering Committee sent his own $1,000 check to reserve “The Wall”.

During this time the “Entertainment Department” which was so enthusiastic in the beginning did the following:
- Did not reserve “The Wall” or forward a down-payment
- Did not arrange for a fund raising concert
- Did not arrange for a “named” concert
- Did not arrange a meeting with other Villages Organizations
including Construction or whomever was throwing the
roadblocks in
- Could not get “Approval” for use of the Polo Field
The Entertainment Department finally responded that “The Wall” would be 200 feet deep and would cause damage that would require $21,000 in sod replacement. The Entertainment Department then proposed use of Colony Plaza. This area had the same problems as Mulberry Plaza only it did not have the use of the VA Clinic but it had an active McDonalds sitting right in the middle of the proposed site. The site also had an active shopping center, had only one road shared by cars and Golf Carts, little room for spectators, and lack of a convenient location for parade participants to disperse or get picked up.
A meeting was held with The Vendor and representatives of the Villages Commercial Property Management (“CPM”) to review the location. They asked questions directly to The Vendor regarding the wall and its potential damage to the area.

They were, told again that the Wall would sit on a 2 inch by 4 inch platform. The platform would be ABOVE ground on 2inch by 4 inch stakes driven 6 inches into the ground and placed every 3 feet for a distance of 150 feet in one direction and 150 feet in another. That with one good rainfall the ground would close up the holes (remember that the event would take place in June and Polo would not start until the Fall).

Subsequently CPM rejected this location with The Villages standard answer of “liability” concerns (remember the Buffalo). Since this had the same pitfalls as Mulberry Plaza then obviously that location would have been rejected for the same reason.

A series of e-mails had been sent to Barbara Vesco – Entertainment, Sonny Resmundo – Construction, and Mackie Mccabe – Hospitality requesting a meeting to review the installation and construction details associated with “The Wall” to make sure everyone understood the specifications and show them that there would be no damage to the Polo Field. NO RESPONSE.

The Villages Entertainment Department, The Villages Construction Department were again asked to relook at “The Walls” installation and speak directly to The Vendor so they would fully and completely understand that there would not be any damage to the Polo Field and that there would be no need for $21,000 for sod replacement, and again explaining that the Polo Field was the only viable location for this event. NO RESPONSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Death of The Villages Veterans Celebration and Display of The Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall
Since there was NO approval for use of the Polo Field, Mulberry Plaza, Colony Plaza or any other site within The Villages or any other alternate proposal forthcoming from The Developer or any of his organizations, The Villages Veterans Celebration has been cancelled. The Wall is not coming to the Villages.

Since it is quite obvious that nothing goes on within the Developers Organization without Mark Morse knowing about it then it is quite obvious that Mark Morse killed the Veterans Parade and Celebration and The Wall.

Was it because his employees failed to give him the full story, or because he wasn’t making any money from the Veterans Celebration, or a desire to ignore just to ignore those pesky residents who are always asking for something; perhaps the celebration did conflict with the graduation party, maybe it was arrogance, laziness or insensitivity by Mark's advisors?

It really doesn’t matter since if Mark Morse wanted the Veterans Celebration a way would have been found. If Mark Morse cared about bringing the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall to The Villages someone would have checked with The Vendor to fully understand its installation requirements. Maybe if Mark knew someone who was a Veteran, or one of his children was now serving in the Armed Forces his attitude might have been different.

TOGETHER WE CARE – DO THEY?
  #2  
Old 03-27-2011, 06:38 AM
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It's a damn shame the project was killed. By the outline provided much work went into this planned event. I find it hard to believe that with as many families in this community with veteran ties and the size of this community that a site for this great celebration couldn't be found. Sounds similar to the relay for life event. Nothing in it for Moffit no can do. What a damn shame.Just another kick in the teeth for veterans and their families.
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Old 03-27-2011, 07:34 AM
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I read your post with care. I am not a veteran, but a number of my family members have served our country honorably. I have lost friends to war. My beloved husband has served in Viet Nam as a corpsman with the Marines.

We live in the suburbs of Chicago. We have the Moving Wall come to one of our neighboring communities yearly. My husband has regularly been a part of it's escort to placement when it arrives. There are names on that wall of people who have died in his arms and friends he has grieviously lost.

I have attended with him and have observed what a solemn and intimate experience it is. Our community keeps it in that way in it's preparation and presentation. Whether they do this out of choice or necessity, I'm not certain, but they let everyone know it's coming and those who want to attend do not let the opportunity escape them.

My husband George has also participated in "The Run for The Wall" which is a cross country motorcycle trip with poignant history, from California to The Wall in Washington. My words can not adequately portray an experience he will never forget.
Once he visited the monument however, he began his journey home. He didn't stay for the rally and ceremonies, the crowds, etc. That was not the purpose of his trip and held no appeal for him to indulge in.

It is with respect that I wish to add my comment. I am responding as an outside observer. When I read your post about all that you had hoped would transpire, it was overwhelming to even imagine.


I may be quite wrong, but perhaps it is the scope of what you desire, not the purpose or content, that served to quell it's inauguration. Nothing more.

I respect and admire your heartfelt intentions to recognize and honor those who have been and are our heroes.
I hope my husband George will consider putting his own response in this forum.
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Old 03-27-2011, 07:47 AM
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I am most definitely not a fan of the developer. I am also very pro-military. My father served in two wars and died as a result of a military-caused injury. My brother served three tours in Vietnam not because he believed in that conflict but because he believed he could save lives (and did) by being there. Both have been highly decorated by our government. I am extremely proud of both of them.

That being said, there are two sides to this story and I really would like to hear the other side. There just seem to be some facts missing.

Regardless, I sincerely hope there is a way to have this event occur, if not this year, then next year. I know it is something I would wholeheartedly support and would be more than willing to help in any way I could.
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Old 03-27-2011, 07:51 AM
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Without fixing blame on anyone, one statement you made would give me cause for concern.
"where spectators in the thousands " I could see that happening and thousands of people coming, every day, to TV could be overwhelming.
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Old 03-27-2011, 08:04 AM
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Default It is not like the so called entertainmnet group

lacks the experience to gauge response to certain types of events.
When the interface organization goes from responsive to non supportive it is obvious they either discovered some new information to affect the decision. Or when the upper management heard about it there was something that did not measure up....and this could be most anything from liability to not contributing to Moffitt to a crossed hair.

And like Relay for Life this will boil around for months and when they know which way to best phrase it for public consumption TV will communicate through some mid level responder. Typical response to be expected.

btk
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Old 03-27-2011, 08:14 AM
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I don't get it. The polo field has been used for Golf fest with thousands of people using it. They've had no problem with other events that bring in a lot of people. I am not a veteran, however, I have seen the Wall at another location, and it was a very moving experience for me and my family. With the number of ex-military people living here in The Villages, it does seem like a no-brainer. I would like to hear the official reasons from The Villages why there is no support.
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Old 03-27-2011, 08:24 AM
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Being retired from the military, I would be proud to support this and would loved to have seen this event. However I do have to take the stand of a lot of others. What has the other side officially said. We do need that before we cast the stone at the developer. I am also not a fan of the developer but there are two sides to every story. I would hope that Moffett is not the reason.
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Old 03-27-2011, 09:22 AM
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One way to look at the situation is the men and women in our armed forces sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much to allow us, including the Morse family, the prosperity we enjoy. In this light The Villages stands as a living tribute to them. They've also fought to secure our rights and freedoms. In this light the Morses are exercising their right to do what they want with property they and their companies own. The same securities we enjoy. Again, made possible by the sacrifices of our uniformed men and women.

I would have been very moved to attend the celebrations planned by the TogetherWeCare steering committee and sorely regret that they will not occur. However, each day I celebrate the good fortune afforded me to live in such a beautiful place with such gifted, talented people coming at a cost so dear. Our homes and our way of life in TV exist as a perpetual honor and rememberance to the United States military forces.
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Old 03-27-2011, 09:35 AM
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Taking everything into consideration, I have a real problem with a persons first post bashing our community and developer.... if they don't like the community, go away and leave us, the ones that do, alone.....

sheeeeeeeesh !!!

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Old 03-27-2011, 10:22 AM
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The Horse park off 475 west of Belleview has the perfect location. Love the idea of what you are trying to bring to our area. Would you consider trying again outside of the Villages and asking for help from non Villagers? Honoring our military past and present is a wonderful idea.
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Old 03-27-2011, 10:40 AM
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I have been to the Wall in DC and, for the daughter of a WWII vet who came of age during Viet Nam, it was an amazing experience. I think I shed a tear for every name....

I do hope that there will be a response from TV.

Normally, I don't like a newcomer coming in and bashing our community - but in this case the poster presented lots of details. He (she?) took a lot of time to compose that post and used TOTV as the forum that it is... as surely this written as a letter to the Editor in the Sun would likely not ever be seen in print.

I hope that some of the other Villagers involved in this can be persuaded to comment here as well....

k
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Old 03-27-2011, 10:52 AM
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Thank you-TogetherWeCare. As I've said, I've lived here full time 7 years. I know more than I care to know. I had heard about this in whispers. I have nothing but respect for your efforts, and for taking the time to post.
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:13 AM
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I am a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1036 The Villages.
Here is a copy of the email that we received from the Chapter President regarding this matter.
I wish to thank each and everyone of you for the vast amount of work done, particularly behind the scenes, on making this event happen.

The Entertainment Department of The Villages went above and beyond with their efforts to make this happen!! and a hardy thank you to them!! When the planning stages were culminated, they took the next step and presented the proposal to Commercial Property Management and that's when proverbial "S" hit the fan. They would not and could not tackle the many Liability issues.

"Plan B" you will note, was hosting at the American Legion, pending approval of their BOD. John Gibbons had other "Duties/Engagement" and did not attend the meeting. Their board decided that they did not have enough "Head Time" to properly host this event.

On Wednesday, March 9,2011, I resubmitted a bare bones request to Commercial Property Management Division, for any site for this project. On Friday, March 11,2011, I received a communication from them that the division explaining, the still overwhelming liability issue with the Wall.

So, lessons learned the hard way, we will be unable to sponsor this project this year.

Thanks again for all your hard work, to each and everyone of you. Lets not sit back and point fingers at anybody for the things that are beyond our control. Like all good soldiers, we pick-up the pieces and move on.

The Moving Wall will be on display at Wickham Park in Melbourne. May 1-8th at the Florida Reunion of Vietnam Veterans. We are in the process of finding those who wish to attend with car pooling dates.

Looking forward to seeing each of you at the April 5th General Membership Meeting. (Election Night)

Please come and cast your vote and i look forward to your continued support.

Alonzo Young, President
VVA Chapter 1036
The Villages
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uptown Girl View Post
I read your post with care. I am not a veteran, but a number of my family members have served our country honorably. I have lost friends to war. My beloved husband has served in Viet Nam as a corpsman with the Marines.

We live in the suburbs of Chicago. We have the Moving Wall come to one of our neighboring communities yearly. My husband has regularly been a part of it's escort to placement when it arrives. There are names on that wall of people who have died in his arms and friends he has grieviously lost.

I have attended with him and have observed what a solemn and intimate experience it is. Our community keeps it in that way in it's preparation and presentation. Whether they do this out of choice or necessity, I'm not certain, but they let everyone know it's coming and those who want to attend do not let the opportunity escape them.

My husband George has also participated in "The Run for The Wall" which is a cross country motorcycle trip with poignant history, from California to The Wall in Washington. My words can not adequately portray an experience he will never forget.
Once he visited the monument however, he began his journey home. He didn't stay for the rally and ceremonies, the crowds, etc. That was not the purpose of his trip and held no appeal for him to indulge in.

It is with respect that I wish to add my comment. I am responding as an outside observer. When I read your post about all that you had hoped would transpire, it was overwhelming to even imagine.


I may be quite wrong, but perhaps it is the scope of what you desire, not the purpose or content, that served to quell it's inauguration. Nothing more.

I respect and admire your heartfelt intentions to recognize and honor those who have been and are our heroes.
I hope my husband George will consider putting his own response in this forum.
I wondered the same thing. The scope of events over six days would require a tremendous amount of logistical support. The growth to involvement of 20-plus organizations also increased the complexity. I can almost picture how initial enthusiasm could turn to... yikes, this is a larger and more complex project than we can handle.

I have visited The Wall in the nation's capital. It is a deeply moving and solemn experience. My heartfelt thanks goes every day to our veterans. Thanks also to all of the support organizations for their efforts.
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