I had a meeting down in Tampa on October 1. Since the meeting ended by noon, I had some time to leisurely make my way back home. One of my favorite things to do is a leisurely drive home, stopping wherever a sign may take me! I've lived in Florida my entire life, have traveled up and down I-75 literally hundreds of times and never before noticed the sign that noted the Florida National Cemetery.
Intrigued, I took the exit and followed the signs to a beautiful place of peace and reverence. It's in Bushnell at the 309 Webster exit about an hour north of Tampa within the Withlacoochee State Forest. The Withlacoochee State Forest was acquired by the federal government from private landowners from 1936-1939 and is the second largest state forest in Florida. The cemetery itself was established in 1983, and the first internment was in 1988.
As I was walking through the markers, I truly felt such an overwhelming feeling of peace and awe. I read name after name and wondered about their lives and their service in the wars. I was struck by the female names, nurses who served in WWII (listen to the awesome music on this site). I also noticed that on the backs of many of the soldiers' and sailors' markers were the markers of their wives. On one was a sweet message: "Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand."
I'm so glad I took that little detour. I thought of my relatives who fought in WWII, my grandfather in the Navy and my Uncle Wilbur in the Army, and imagined what their names would look like on the beautiful markers here. If you are ever in this area, I highly encourage you to take this little detour.