New Military Sculpture Draws Praise and Gratitude

November 15, 2010

Military SculptureThe sculpture “For Those Who Serve” is comprised of seven figures. The five life-size figures in the circle each represent a branch of the armed services, and together they are holding aloft Lady Liberty. Not shown in this photograph is professor seated nearby, extending a hand to the military students, in a symbolic representation of our faculty’s work in teaching and serving military students.

An appreciative crowd gathered at University Campus on Veterans Day evening for the dedication of For Those Who Serve, Saint Leo University’s new military sculpture. The complex, seven-figure work, created by accomplished sculptor Dexter Benedict, pays tribute to each branch of the armed services and celebrates Saint Leo’s longstanding commitment to providing educational opportunities to service members and veterans. The sculpture was made possible by donors and is installed in Dempsey Plaza, between the Student Community Center and the Student Activities Building. The work itself, and Benedict, who was in attendance, drew applause from an audience of more than 400 guests.

In his remarks at the dedication, University President Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., told the crowd: “Long ago we envisioned building this tribute –– at the center of our campus –– to honor those who serve so that we may teach and learn in peace. It compels us to remember that though this may be the center of our campus, our great university extends far from this spot; and that those who serve are in our hearts and prayers every day.”

Anne M. Smith was once one of those Saint Leo students who studied hundreds of miles away from University Campus at a military center, and as a military spouse earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Now, equipped with additional, advanced degrees, she serves in a civilian post as the chief of voluntary education for the United States Air Force. Saint Leo, she said, has played an important, life-changing role in the lives of enlisted service members, officers, and military dependents.

“I am privileged tonight that I have the opportunity to thank Saint Leo University on behalf of all the military –– active duty, Guard, Reserve –– all the dependents, military spouses, and federal civil servants,’’ she said. “I can also give Saint Leo a special ‘thank you’ from me. Thank you from all of us for providing college opportunities that have given us a new world.”

U.S. Army Reserve Major General Luis R. Visot, executive director of the Joint Military Science Leadership Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, affirmed that note of appreciation in his keynote address. “On behalf of all those service members who are presently pursuing their education throughout the world and on campus at Saint Leo University, please allow me to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Saint Leo University community that for many, many years and even generations has passionately demonstrated its untiring commitment to the success of our many veterans who have taken advantage of the educational benefits that they have so justly earned.”

Earlier in the day, the University Campus community was honored to have U.S. Army Brigadier General Robert Ashley, director of intelligence from U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, address the traditional annual Veterans Day observance. The general urged students, faculty, staff, and visiting community residents to keep active-duty service members “close in your hearts and your prayers so that they may come home to their families.”

Click here to read coverage of the traditional Veterans Day observance by The Tampa Tribune.