Despite the United States’ long military history, many local memorials created in times of peace have not kept up to the history of modern conflicts. The memorial near Port Jefferson Harbor references up to the Korean War, while other memorials in the Three Village area do not go beyond the Vietnam War.
“Through our local veterans memorials our communities show our love of country and respect to those who gave all. America’s freedom can never be taken for granted — veterans can never be forgotten.”
— Jack Gozdziewski
“You go year in year out to many of these services such as the Memorial Day parade and you think, ‘Why is the last item on the memorials the Vietnam War,’” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “We have lost brave men and women in all the wars since.”
The Veterans Memorial Fund, a campaign created by Hahn and local veteran service groups, is looking to update the memorials located at Stony Brook village, Setauket Village Green, Setauket Veterans Memorial Park and the memorial at the Port Jefferson harborfront to reference the Cold War, the two Gulf Wars and the global War on Terror.
Hahn and several leaders from local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts, as well as the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, have been meeting for several months to design the fundraising campaign and new memorials. The fundraising committee said it requires $30,000 to upgrade all four memorials fully and hopes to have it all built in time for Memorial Day 2019.
“This project is in recognition to all veterans who served in all wars whether it was during the Cold War or boots on the ground,” said Bill Wolf, the commander of the American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 in Port Jefferson.
The original concept was proposed to Hahn back in May by Jack Gozdziewski, a veteran and member of the American Legion Post 432 and VFW Post 3054. He said that those veterans of America’s most modern wars shouldn’t be left out of the local history.
“Through our local veterans memorials our communities show our love of country and respect to those who gave all,” Gozdziewski said. “America’s freedom can never be taken for granted — veterans can never be forgotten.”
The fund is accepting donations at multiple sponsorship levels. The lowest starts at the $100 Enlistee level. Higher levels such as the $3,500 Defense Superior Service Medal sponsor level will list the sponsor’s name on a sign to be placed close to the monuments. The highest level, the $10,000 Medal of Honor sponsorship, will give the sponsor recognition during the opening ceremonies and allow them to use a digital “seal” in business advertising or in other promotions.
The memorials at Stony Brook village and the Setauket Village Green will receive new bronze plaques referencing these later wars. Meanwhile, the more elaborate memorials such as the one in the Setauket Veterans Memorial Park will require new marble work and other amenities.
Hahn said the fundraising committee is hoping to have the $30,000 in hand by the end of January in order to start planning the renovations, gathering the materials and contracting out to a stonemason. If the fund doesn’t reach its goal by that deadline, the legislator said they will continue to fundraise to make these changes hopefully by Veterans Day 2019.
“Our community is very patriotic,” said Carlton “Hub” Edwards, the commander of American Legion Irving Hart Post 1766 in Setauket. “I am certain the community will step up to help fund this veterans memorial project to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and have yet to be fully acknowledged.”
Donations can be sent via check mailed to: Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 986, Port Jefferson Station, NY 11776.
Checks may also be dropped off at the American Legion, Wilson Ritch Post 432 located at 1450 Hallock Ave. in Port Jefferson Station or the VFW Post 3054 at 8 Jones St. in East Setauket.
People with questions about the fund can send queries to: [email protected] or call at 631-828-1452.