TAMPA – Hillsborough County officials and the Veterans Memorial Park Museum Committee dedicated an Afghanistan war memorial Saturday to honor military heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The memorial at Veterans Memorial Park honors 16 fallen service members from Hillsborough County, and an additional 135 Floridians kiiled during Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Today is our day to say thank you to those who for generations have footed the bill, to those who have paid so dearly with their lives, and to their families and friends whose lives are forever changed," said U.S. Navy Seal Gold Star father Scott Bill.
Annette Kirk of Valrico helped lead the effort to build the memorial. Kirk's son, Pfc. Paul Cuzzupe II, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 at the age of 23.
"He was special, he was my inspiration for all of this," Kirk said. "But it's not just my son, it's for all for the Afghanistan veterans.”
Florida has the third most military conflict fatalities in Afghanistan of the 50 states behind California and Texas.
"It’s heartbreaking, but I know that (the families) have a place they can come, spend some time and honor them," Kirk said.
Currently, 11,000 troops are serving in Afghanistan. Last month, the Trump administration authorized the deployment of 3,000 additional troops to the region.
The conflict in Afghanistan began on Oct. 7, 2001, transitioned to Operation Freedom's Sentinel, and remains America's longest-running war.
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