CLEARWATER, Fla. (FOX 13) - A unique memorial honoring U.S. veterans is being put into place just off our coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
The "Circle of Heroes" is set to become the nation's first underwater dive memorial for veterans, and is located at Veteran's Reef, about 10 miles off the coast of Dunedin Beach in Pinellas County.
Once completed, it will have 24 six-foot-tall concrete statues showing men and women serving in the U.S. military in a 100-foot circle on the gulf floor. A monument at the center of the circle will depict five bronze emblems representing each of the U.S. Armed Forces: The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
The first 12 statues have already been put into place 40 feet below the surface, while organizers say the additional statues will be installed in 2020 to complete the circle.
The underwater memorial will also serve as a therapeutic dive site for disabled veterans suffering from PTSD, depression and trauma, according to the creators. The statues will eventually become an artificial reef to help sustain marine life in the gulf waters.
The memorial will open to the public on August 5 following a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony on the water. Several local veterans will complete the first dive; after that, members of the public will be able to visit the site.
Until then, however, organizers are asking people to stay away from the site for safety reasons as work is being finalized.
Members of the public who wish to attend the dedication ceremony can bring their own boat to Veterans Reef on Monday, August 5 at 9:30 a.m. The grand opening will include a flotilla of boats with a Coast Guard fly-over.
Limited seats are also available on the Super Queen, a boat event organizers have rented for the event. Anyone interested in requesting a ride on the boat is asked to contact organizers through their website, vetmemorial.org.
LINK: For more information on the Circle of Heroes underwater memorial, visit their website by clicking here.