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by: Kelly Stilwell

With this issue being devoted to honor those who have served our country, we have a local hop that you really shouldn’t miss as it’s so close. Our skip is also still in the state, and one that’s a great family getaway with so much to do. Our jump is up the East Coast, but probably the most patriotic place in the country. Finally, this month we’re adding a leap with a very important piece in our country’s history, and the most extensive maritime invasion ever recorded. Have you guessed them all yet?

A Hop

Just about an hour away in Hillsborough County, you’ll find Veterans Memorial Park and Museum. The creation of the Park and Veterans Museum, named after Rear Admiral Leroy Collins, Jr., serves as a unifying space where both residents and visitors can come together to commemorate and pay tribute to veterans from every era. The park even has a Veterans Resource Center, offering services to veterans.

The park additionally functions as a venue for commemorations on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Patriot Day. It also hosts an array of gatherings.

Things to See

There are 14 memorials to visit, including ones dedicated to World War I, World War II, and Vietnam. You’ll also find statues and tributes honoring our veterans and the families many of them left behind to serve their country and keep us safe. The POW Memorial is truly moving.

Location: 3602 Highway 301 North in Tampa.

A Skip

The oldest city in the United States is actually right here in Florida. St. Augustine was founded 1565 by Admiral Don Pedro Menendez, sent by King Phillip II of Spain. His assignment? To expel the French from Florida and establish colonies along the coast. He made his base St. Augustine. You can still see remnants of those days by visiting the 315-year-old Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. Built with coquina, the fort was fire-resistant and impenetrable by enemy forces. On the second level of the fort, you can see where soldiers stood at guard, as well as the canons that were used to defend Castillo de San Marcos.

Things to See

Castillo de San Marcos: 315-year-old fort and National Monument. Location: 1 Castillo Dr.

Aviles Street: The oldest street in America, including shops and restaurants.

Colonial Quarter: Hands-on journey back in time to the colonial days. Location: 14 S. Castillo Dr.

Castillo de San Marcos at sunrise. Photo credit: Florida’s Histroic Coast.


Many of us took field trips to the District of Columbia when we were in school as it’s home to many of the most iconic American history sights in the country. Washington, D.C., founded in 1790, was established to serve as the nation’s capital by the U.S. Constitution. The location, along the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, was actually chosen by President George Washington.

Things to See

As there is so much to see, it’s a great idea to take a tour so you can fit in as much as possible.

White House The official workplace and residence of the President of the United States and his family as well as a museum of American history. 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington Monument Built to commemorate George Washington, founding father of the United States. 2 15th St., NW

U.S. Capitol: Seat of the U.S. Congress.

National Archives: See the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution, and the Magna Carta. 701 Constitution Ave. Tip: Arlington National Cemetery is less than a 15-minute drive from Washington, D.C., and definitely worth a visit. In fact, you can even get there on the Metro. Look for the Arlington National Cemetery Station. The Visitor’s Center is a short walk from the station. Take a guided tour to four major sites including the John F. Kennedy gravesite and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Don’t miss the changing of the guard, every day, at the top of the hour.

DC Skyline in Autumn courtesy of


The three-month Battle of Normandy, lasting from June through August of 1944, was the largest recorded maritime invasion in history. We couldn’t very well call Normandy a jump, but it’s also not out of the question to visit. In fact, last year I took the Paris & the Heart of Normandy river cruise with Viking Cruises and was able to experience Normandy myself. Though there were many people who were on the cruise to experience the sights, food, and excitement of seeing so many destinations without having to worry about moving around from place to place, there were a handful of guests who were there specifically for Normandy. When our group was asked if anyone who had served in the armed forces would join them at the front for the special ceremony arranged by Viking, there was not a dry eye in the house when several men stepped forward.

Viking Cruises has also hosted soldiers who have returned to Normandy to revisit the graves of comrades and the shores where they fought almost 70 years ago.

Things to See

This is not an exhaustive list, but part of the included excursion offered by Viking Cruises.

Normandy American Cemetery A burial site overlooking Omaha Beach. At the American cemetery alone, there are almost 10,000 white crosses, perfectly aligned, all facing the United States of America.

Omaha Beach One of the five landing areas in Normandy used by Allied forces during the historic World War II D-Day invasion.

Caen Memorial Museum A learning experience about the invasion of Normandy and the events leading up to the liberation of Europe.

Juno Beach One of the five landing areas of the Allied invasion during the historic World War II D-Day invasion.

Pegasus Memorial Museum Located between Caen and the shoreline, this museum offers self-led and guided tours to learn about the very first liberators from the British 6th Airborne division landing on Norman Soil.

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