In August 2013, retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Augie D’Alessio called. “I’ve got a scoop for you,” he said with a great deal of delight. “But you can‘t do anything with it yet; I have to get a few more things lined up.” His scoop was about a project he called “Freedom Fountain,” and he had hand selected fellow veteran and St. Pete Beach resident Harry Metz to make it a reality.
“We were sitting and talking and he says, ‘Uhh Harry, here’s another project I want you to do,’” recalls Metz. “When he passed (Oct. 30, 2013), I thought I better get off my butt and do it, because I’ll catch hell when I get up there,” he says pointing skyward and laughing.
He’s been working behind the scenes with Medal of Honor recipient retired CSM Gary Littrell along with local businesses to get things going since and presented the idea officially to the St. Pete Beach City Commission, July 11.
Freedom Fountain is a monument to recognize Medal of Honor recipients. Augie planned it for Pass-a-Grille Park. The design presented to the commission was done by Tim Kelly of TNT Design & Marketing based on an initial design hand-sketched by Augie in 2013 and input from Harry.
The monument has a 20 by 30 foot pool with three granite panels, each of which will hold one version of the medal along with the names of the services to which it pertains and the names of the 13 Florida recipients who received it. There will be an American flag in the center behind the memori- al flanked by flags of the services and the POW/MIA flag. The drawing has a soldier with a rifle and helmet kneeling and praying to a white cross in the pool. It will be dedicated to Augie and have a path to it and around it for visitor access.
Harry pegs the cost around $35,000 and plans to seek funding from the city, county and possibly the state.
He has already gotten help from area businesses. Kelly donated his time on the drawings, H. Neuman Plumbing has offered to donate labor related to plumbing, and he believes a Bradenton company will provide the concrete for the pool. Commissioner Rick Falkenstein offered to provide a solar contact.
The goal is to have the monument completed in time for the 2019 Medal of Honor Convention being held in the Tampa Bay area and have them attend a dedication.
It has been a long time coming. City Commissioner Terri Finnerty remembers Augie discussing it in 2006 when he was on the board for SPB Support Our Troops. “He was talking about it way back then and right up to the day he passed. He kept pushing and pushing, and that original design is etched in my memory,” she said.
“I think we have a consensus here that we should support it,” said Mayor Al Johnson. Andrew Dickman, the city attorney, offered his help to review cases related to use of religious symbols on public land to avoid litigation. Commissioner Melinda Pletcher, District 4 which includes Pass-a-Grille, says she still misses Augie and knew how much he wanted it at that park, but suggested Horan Park be considered. Vice Mayor Ward Friszolowski noted it would need to go through parks and recreation and has to fit within the greater whole, no matter where it is.
“This will be the first Medal of Honor Memorial in the state of Florida or in any other state that I have checked,” said Metz. “It’s not only a memorial for the Medal of Honor recipients, it’s a memorial for everybody.”