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East County Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 10 years ago

Patriots plan military memorial

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — A piece of United States history may soon plant itself in the East County.

Ed’s Tavern owner John Breiner and Lakewood Ranch Resident Gene Sweeney are working to bring a piece of the World Trade Center towers to Lakewood Ranch Main Street and turn it into a centerpiece for a memorial honoring military veterans and first responders.

“Every little township across America should have a remembrance to never forget the first attack on our soil,” said Sweeney, noting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack killed more than twice the number of people killed in Pearl Harbor. “It’s not about the war, it’s about the warriors.”

On Sept. 1, 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey opened up to requests from organizations for pieces of World Trade Center steel, which was recovered from the site after the attacks and secured at JFK Airport by the port authority until now. Sweeney learned of the offer through the Web site,, and has put in a request for a steel beam 4 to 6 inches in diameter and 4 to 6 feet long.

He and Breiner hope to use the steel to create a Fallen Heroes Memorial at the end of Lakewood Ranch Main Street near Ed’s Tavern at the circular space overlooking Lake Uihlein.

Renderings show the steel bar will be the memorial’s focal point. The site also will feature an American flag. The memorial itself currently is planned to be an octagonal shape and the walls of the structure consisting of granite panels, a similar style to the Vietnam Wall Memorial, Sweeney said. Individuals will be able to have the names of loved ones inscribed on the panels for a cost still to be determined.

“It’s in a perfect spot,” said Breiner, whose family served in the military. “It’s an unused space right now. This is something to keep the legacy (of serving our country) alive.”

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch President and CEO Rex Jensen said he supports the idea in concept but is waiting to have some key questions — such as who will care for the project in perpetuity — answered in writing before agreeing to move forward with the project.

“Right now, it’s so preliminary that it doesn’t exist,” Jensen said.

As details are being worked out, Sweeney and Breiner are keeping busy preparing and trying to finalize details.

While there is no cost for the steel beam from the World Trade Center, organizers must pay for its transportation, installation and flags and other improvements for the memorial.

Sweeney said he is still looking to find individuals or businesses to sponsor components of the memorial.

The men hope to dedicate the memorial on Memorial Day.

To sponsor the project or get more information, contact Sweeney at (770) 330-7683 or visit

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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