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History Students Research Orlando’s Former Naval Training Center for Memorial

A memorial to honor the 650,000 Navy recruits who were trained in Orlando has received a boost by UCF history students who researched the base, interviewed the sailors who came through the facility, and collected photos.

The Orlando Naval Training Center, which was in operation 1968-94, was where the Baldwin Park neighborhood now sits. The Navy League of the United States – Central Florida Council is raising money to create the patriotic memorial in the neighborhood’s Bluejacket Park.

The remembrance will include a Lone Sailor statue and a 20-foot heritage wall exhibiting the history of the Navy in Central Florida. The group is raising funds now and hopes to construct and dedicate the memorial by early next year.

Students of associate professor Rosalind Beiler, director of public history, and military history assistant professor Barbara Gannon earlier this year researched the project and presented the findings to the council, which had asked for help in creating the heritage wall.

Mark Barnes, a graduate student who also made a presentation about the research at an intern showcase this summer at UCF’s Public History Center in Sanford, said he was honored to be part of the project that will recognize those who trained at the base and went on to serve our country. This would be the ninth Lone Sailor Memorial Park in the nation, he said.

“This will be a physical exhibit that I can go to and say that I did something that was a big part of this,” Barnes said.

The UCF part of the project is still in progress. The oral histories are being contributed to the UCF Community Veterans History Project and, as appropriate, to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. Permissions are being sought to use images, and the photos are being uploaded to the UCF online RICHES Mosaic Interface.

“My students learned a great deal in the process of working with community partners on a ‘real-world’ project,” said Beiler. “And the committee seemed quite pleased with the outcome.”

The memorial will serve as a reminder of the Navy’s legacy in Orlando, and an inspiration to those currently serving and who will serve in the Navy.

“We could not have been more impressed with UCF’s dedication on this,” said Andy Mohler, co-chair of the Lone Sailor Navy Memorial Committee. “So much talent and passion. That’s what really came out.

“This will forever embody the history of the Navy in Orlando. It’s not just an academic exercise that will gather dust on a shelf.”