Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial could be coming to Punta Gorda

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
Veterans Park
Punta Gorda’s Veterans Park (Credit: WINK News)

An organization wants to bring a new war memorial to Punta Gorda with an Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial.

Veterans Park bears a lot of meaning to the people in Punta Gorda, the people who went to war, and the families of those who died. The park could soon be home to a memorial for even more veterans.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it’s like to be in that environment,” said Stephen Tortorelli, an Iraq war veteran.

The folks behind an organization called the Iraq and Afghanistan War Memorial Foundation say they understand, and the group wants to build its first monument in Punta Gorda.

Tortorelli, who served with the Navy in Iraq, would love to see the memorial for reasons that are still tough to talk about.

“We had a Marine that was in the unit I was attached to. He was a young, 22-year-old kid from California,” said Tortorelli.

The Punta Gorda City Council agreed to the idea of a monument. The only hesitation is if this is the right place for another war memorial. Maybe the tribute to Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers can go in another park?

“We shouldn’t be putting another monument at the Vietnam Memorial that we should keep it pristine, and they had suggestions of other places, but it was unanimous,” said City Councilmember Mark Kuharski.

“And mine was unanimous the other direction,” said Punta Gorda Mayor Lynne Matthews.

Another question, who will maintain the monument once it’s built?

“What we can do is we can show up to a place that wants something like this, but doesn’t have a design, doesn’t have a way to make it happen. I think it’d be awesome just to have something for someone to maybe read something about it or maybe have someone there to tell them what it’s really like to be in a war zone,” said Steve Udovich, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Memorial Foundation.

Udovich told the city council they would fundraise for the monument, but it would be up to the city to take care of the maintenance.

While the city likes the idea, the organizer admitted he’s talking to other cities.

A final decision will not come for several months.

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