Visit any state in the U.S. and you’ll find a list of memorials honoring veterans in nearly every city. However, there’s only one underwater veteran’s memorial in the United States, and you’ll have to travel to Florida if you want to see it.
The Circle of Heroes Dive site is located off the shore of Clearwater, Florida, and it’s the nation’s first underwater memorial honoring veterans who served in the U.S. military. The site is located 10 miles offshore in about 45 feet of water. Sitting on the sandy bottom are 12 statues that depict the men and women who have served in the country’s armed forces. Soldiers from the Marines, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force are all represented at the memorial.
By the end of next year, 12 more statues are expected to be placed in the memorial, for a total of 24 monuments. The site is open for diving now.
The site is a special place for anyone who appreciates U.S. veterans, but it’s especially unique for the veterans themselves. As it turns out, there are plenty of vets who scuba dive after returning home from war, both professionally and recreationally.
The memorial is part of a larger project called the Veterans Reef scuba diving area. The idea for Circle of Heroes was originally thought up by a man named Heyward Mathews, a veteran scuba instructor. He came up with the idea nearly 10 years ago, but the project didn’t get underway until February of last year when the first of the statues were unveiled during a ceremony. Late last month, those statues were sunk at the location and on August 5th, the Circle of Heroes was officially opened up for public diving.
While the site is available for all recreational scuba divers, there are plans to use the location for sports therapy and adaptive diving, specifically geared toward disabled veterans. Diving has proven to be an effective therapy, both physically and mentally, for some of the ailments veterans face after returning home from war.