Pinellas County

Underwater memorial dedicated to veterans to be constructed near Dunedin Beach

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) - It's the first of its kind in the world right here in the Tampa Bay area! An underwater memorial dedicated to our U.S. veterans is expected to bring in scuba divers from around the world.

In 1999, Dr. Heyward Mathews created the very successful Veterans Fishing Reef 10 miles west of Dunedin Beach. But his second sea floor project honoring veterans isn't to attract marine life. He hopes these massive memorials will attract scuba enthusiasts.

"These statues are actually six foot tall and they weigh 1300 pounds," said Dr. Matthews.

The goal is to have 24 military figures set in a 100 foot circle with a center monument representing each of the five U.S. Armed Forces.

"I want a Patton. I want a McCarthy with his little corn cob pipe. And if the family would agree, I'd like to have one of Schwarzkopf," said Dr. Mathews.

News Channel 8 stopped by American Legion Post #5 to see what veterans think about this submerged memorial.

"Ahhhhh....Look at that! So, you gotta be a diver to go down and see 'em. Hmmm," said Navy veteran Ray Keckler.

His brother and U.S. Air Force Veteran, Ken, said, "It'd be neat! I'm a scuba diver so I wouldn't mind seeing that underwater."

Dr. Matthews says this new subaquatic destination means much more than just visitors and tax dollars. The Circle of Heroes will honor those who gave all.

"Because what they've sacrificed for is just unbelievable," he said.

As a man who has more than 3,000 dives under his "weight belt," Dr. Mathews says he looks forward to teaching veterans dealing with PTSD, physical injuries and more how to scuba dive, then eventually taking them down to see the memorial in person.

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