Thursday, November 17, 2011

Will this be the last Veterans Day that our heroes are made to wait for memorial?

Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.

By Brendan McHugh
ROTC students from several Bronx colleges
participated in the ceremonies to mark Veterans Day
in Van Cortlandt Park.

This past Sunday, about 100 people showed up on a brisk November afternoon to honor Riverdale’s veterans at the Van Cortlandt Park Memorial Grove. 

Herb Barret and Don Tannen, the leaders of the Memorial Grove Restoration Group and two veterans themselves, have held the ceremony for the past five years, not only for the veterans in the area, but also to highlight the need to restore the war memorial. 

“We were hoping that a good part of the grove would be completed,” Barret said at the ceremony. “We’d just like to see it finished.” 

The grove is set for completion this January, though Barret and Tannen have had to be relentless in getting the Department of Parks and Recreation in moving quickly. The grove is suppose to honor 37 deceased war heroes—including two Medal of Honor recipients—with 37 trees and plaques, but a handful of trees weren’t there and many of the plaques disappeared over the years. Many of those honored in the grove are from World War II, though a small number honor those who fought in World War I and the Korean War. 

Jump below for the full story.

Since the city began restoring the grove, five trees have been planted and the plaques should be coming soon. 

Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx Borough Historian, said the Memorial Grove is an unusual yet special memorial because it’s a living memorial. 

“This is life itself, the trees live,” he said at the ceremony, highlighting that the men who gave their lives for the freedoms that Americans have today are celebrated by living things rather than inanimate objects like a bell tower. Also, he added, memorials weren’t built to honor WWII veterans as often as they were in previous wars, so to have a WWII memorial in the area is an honor. 

“This more than just memorializes the people here,” Ultan said. “They memorialize what we stand for.” 

City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, who allocated some of his discretionary funds to the restoration, said he understands firsthand the importance of remembering war veterans. 

The son of immigrants who fled the Nazis in WWII, Koppell said he understands the importance of the memorial. 

“I am particularly mindful of our debt of gratitude to our veterans,” he said. 

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz emphasized the unyielding persistence of Barret and Tannen. 

“The grove was not maintained…finally, it will be,” Dinowitz said. “Their dream will be a reality.”

Dinowitz said that since most people his age and younger are not veterans, Veterans Day can sometimes slip by without its proper due. 

“Everything we enjoy, in a large part, is due to veterans protecting our freedoms. If it weren’t for them, where would be today?” he said. 

Rep. Eliot Engel was unable to make it, but he gave the Restoration Group an American flag that was flown above the Capitol building specifically for the group. 

Herb Barret and Valerie Kalaidjian read the names of
the 37 men honored in the grove.
At the beginning of the ceremony, Rev. William G. Kalaidjian, the Chaplin of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center for over the 30 years, gave the invocation. The Jewish War Veterans’ Neumann Goldman Post 69 gave his wife, Valerie, a plaque for her dedication to serving the troops. She has handwritten over 10,500 letters to overseas troops, putting in over an estimated 7,000 hours of her time. 

Manhattan College, Fordham University and SUNY Maritime each had members of their ROTC present for the opening ceremonies. Local Boy Scout troop 240 and Riverdale’s Girl Scout Brownies were also present.

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