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Florida National Cemetery is located in the Withlacoochee State Forest, approximately 50 miles north of Tampa in Sumter County, Fla. Withlacoochee State Forest was acquired by the federal government from private landowners between 1936 and 1939 under the provisions of the U.S. Land Resettlement Administration. The U.S. Forest Service managed the property until a lease-purchase agreement transferred it to the Florida Board of Forestry in 1958. Currently, Withlacoochee State Forest is the second-largest state forest in Florida, divided into eight distinct tracts of land.
In 1842, Congress encouraged settlement here by establishing the Armed Occupation Act. The law granted a patent for 160 acres to any man who kept a gun and ammunition, built a house, cultivated five acres of the land and remained there for at least five years. Settlers moved in to take advantage of the generous offer. The area contained abundant timber and suitable farmland, appealing attributes to frontiersmen. In 1845 Florida was granted statehood.
Medal of Honor Recipients
Sergeant Major Franklin D. Miller (Vietnam) U.S. Army 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, Jan. 5, 1970 (Section ML, Grave 1).
Master Sergeant James R. Hendrix (World War II) U.S. Army, Company C, 53rd Armored Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division. Near Assenois, Belgium, Dec. 26, 1944 (Section MOH, Site 1).
Major David Moniac, (2nd Seminole War) LT 6th U.S. Infantry Alabama Mounted Creek Volunteers, First Native American Graduate USMA Class of 1822, KIA Wahoo Swamp, Dec. 25, 1802 – Nov. 21, 1836 (Section MD, Grave 1).
First Lieutenant Thomas Buchanan (Civil War), Oct. 7, 1825 – June 13, 1863 (Section MD, Grave 39).
Private Albert J. Emery (Spanish American War) 7th U.S. Cavalry, 14th Division, Sept. 15, 1877 - Aug. 30, 1957 (Section 103, Grave 383).
MSGT Alfred Alonzo, Sr., (Korea) U.S. Army, assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. MSGT Alonzo was reported missing Nov. 2, 1950 near Unsan, North Korea, and was presumed dead three years later. His remains and those of 10 other American soldiers were discovered in the year 2000 after a North Korean farmer told authorities he had uncovered human remains he believed to be Americans. A team of representatives from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, excavated the burial site and uncovered the remains of at least 10 individuals. Through DNA testing at the JPAC, MSGT Alonzo’s remains were identified, and his family notified. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and his headstone also states killed in Action (KIA), World War II (WWII) and Korea. MSGT was buried on Nov. 10, 2006 (Section 402, Grave 53-A).
Mike Holovak (World War II) U.S. Navy, Skipper of PT Boat in the South Pacific credited with sinking nine Japanese ships; retired as a Lieutenant Commander. Prior to joining the Navy, Holovak was an All-American football player at Boston College; he was starting fullback on the college’s 1941 Sugar Bowl championship team and set the rushing record during the 1943 Orange Bowl game, which remains unbroken. After the war, he played professional football for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angles Rams. He went on to coach at Boston College and later was named the second head coach of the Boston Patriots. He went on to hold administrative positions with other professional football teams until his retirement in 1998. Holovak was buried on Jan. 30, 2008 (Section 327, Grave 949).
During the Civil War, a sugar mill on the Homosassa River supplied sugar to the Confederacy. A robust citrus-growing industry developed in the eastern part of the area and became a focus of intense economic expansion soon after the war.
In 1980, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it would establish a new national cemetery in Florida, its fourth. Two major locations for the cemetery were studied: Cross Florida Barge Canal and Withlacoochee State Forest. The Withlacoochee site, though more environmentally sensitive, was supported by government officials. On Feb. 15, 1983, the state transferred land to the VA for the development of a Florida National Cemetery. The first interment was in 1988.