Patriots Plaza Dedicated In a Tribute to Veterans

Feb 8, 2018

by Southern News
A permanent place of tribute to military men and women, past and present, was dedicated at Florida Southern College in a meaningful ceremony in April.

Patriots Plaza, located near the center of the campus at the entrance to the Barnett Athletic Complex, is a place of honor and remembrance for veterans and active-duty service members. It also was designed to serve as the site for ROTC programs and formations, as well as to welcome alumni and visitors to our campus. The circular plaza displays the flags of the United States, the State of Florida, and Florida Southern College.

The Plaza was created through generous donations from many alumni and friends of the College. The naming gift for the Plaza was given by Fort Lauderdale businessman and U.S. Army veteran John J. “Jack” Smith ’53. FSC Trustee Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Donald Kerrick ’71, U.S. Army, made the initial gift to launch the project’s campaign as a fitting tribute to all Mocs veterans.

The Plaza’s recognition terrace is paved with bricks purchased by donors, many of which are engraved with the names of military veterans and those who died in service to our nation. Among the memorial bricks are those dedicated to the memory of U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Charles Rubado, a 2004 FSC graduate who was killed in action in 2005 while on patrol during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and to the memory of Capt. Riley Pitts, father of FSC Trustee Mark Pitts and the first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

In the stirring dedication ceremony, Mr. Pitts and Lt. Rubado’s father placed a wreath at the Plaza to the sound of “Taps.” FSC student Jade Ferrell sang America the Beautiful. Army Lt. Col. Rocky Vaira, commander of the ROTC Moccasin Battalion, paid tribute to Lt. Rubado and others.

“The Moccasin Battalion walks in the steps of giants. These names represent selfless warriors,” he said. “Daniel Webster said that God grants liberty only to those willing to defend it. The United States is engaged in the longest conflict in its history, an effort led by the best army in the world, from the best country the world has ever known. Nowhere else will you find men and women willing to share democracy with others.”

The Army ROTC program at Florida Southern has a long and distinguished history. It was begun in 1951 and has produced nine generals. The Moccasin Battalion at FSC was named the winner of the 2017 General Douglas MacArthur Award as the top ROTC program in the Army’s 6th Brigade, which consists of 39 programs in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.