Road name change to honor POW, MIA

A bill to honor and recognize former prisoners of war and the more than 82,000 service members still missing in action and unaccounted for was heard at the March 13 City Council meeting.

Proposed by Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial, Inc., Bill 2018-124 would rename New World Avenue as POW-MIA Memorial Parkway, effective July 1, if it is approved by the Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee and by City Council.

New World Avenue is currently a six-mile road stretching from the hangars at Cecil Field to Chaffee Road. This road also crosses over the new First Coast Expressway (State Route 23), also known as Branan Field Road.

Nearly two dozen people showed up at the meeting to support Cynde Coving, Pam Cain and Steve Spickelmier present the bill to councilmembers. According to Michael Cassata, executive director of the nonprofit, Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial, Inc., all 19 members support the bill, which is scheduled for a vote in April.

The Cecil Field POW-MIA memorial was dedicated in 1973 by the families of POW-MIA pilots and service members to ensure that these brave soldiers were not forgotten.

“This [new name] will serve as a constant reminder for commuters who use the road on a daily basis,” said Cassata.

Field operations began at Cecil Field in December 1941, and the base was designated a Navy auxiliary air station in 1952 when it became known as Naval Air Station Cecil Field, the South’s first master jet base. Squadrons form Cecil Field were aboard every Atlantic Fleet aircraft carrier deployed to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and during the same period, 13 Cecil Field pilots were listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.

The name change was reviewed and approved by the 911 Emergency Addressing Advisory Committee.

Tribute opportunities offered

To help fund the development of the POW-MIA Memorial, the nonprofit plans to offer personalized pavers for the Benefactor Plaza. The memorial bricks can list up to six lines of text of the name of a loved one who served at Cecil Field Master Jet Base, or a family member, military unit, squadron, ship or branch of the military regardless of where they served. Details can be found at www.powmiamemorial.org.

Additionally, loved ones can be honored by purchasing or contributing to the purchase of a pew in the Chapel of the High-Speed Pass, which is currently undergoing renovation. The roof is being replaced by the City of Jacksonville, then the interior will be repainted and new pews installed.

Also, beginning Feb. 3, 2019, the chapel will officially recognize that day as “Four Chaplains Day,” to honor four Army chaplains who gave up their life jackets on the sinking deck of the U.S.A.T. Dorchester in the North Atlantic in 1943. Rev. George L. Fox, Rev. Clark V. Poling, Father John P. Washington and Rabbi Alexander D. Goode are still unaccounted for but were awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for bravery, as well as the Purple Heart and the Chaplain’s Medal for Heroism.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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