Resident Pushes For Veterans’ Memorial Upgrade
After being presented with a plan proposal from a Vietnam veteran and longtime Village resident, the Garden City Board of Trustees vowed to explore the possibility of erecting an improved memorial to local veterans at the January 14th meeting of the Garden City Board of Trustees.
Cyril Smith, who served from 1968-69 as a Captain with the 82nd Airborne Division in Vietnam, asked the Board to consider upgrading and consolidating the veterans’ memorial area on Seventh Street. He recognized several members in the audience who attended the meeting to support the proposal, including cousins of Michael L. LiCalzi and Steve Jones, brother of Walter Chapman Jones III. Marine 1st Lieutenant LiCalzi lost his life on May 11, 2006 while serving in Iraq. Captain Jones died on April 4, 1968 while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“This is the caliber of men sent to war,” Smith said at the Board meeting. “This village should be proud of all of them. There are four Silver Stars among them. We still have some research to do, but this Village can be extremely proud of them.”
Mayor Robert J. Rothschild acknowledged the need for an upgraded memorial but said he and others are concerned that the scope of the project is too large. “We obviously recognize the importance of it and we definitely want to do something because it’s time to do something,” he said. “But I don’t think we want it to look like Washington, D.C. Maybe that’s not the right way of putting it, but we want it special for Garden City and we want it to recognize the people who have done what they have done for the country and the Village.”
The trustees plan to visit the site either before or after an upcoming budget work session. “I really want the trustees to touch it and feel it and know what we’re talking about possibly doing,” he said. He also wants to look into the possibility of having the work done by the Village instead of an outside contractor.
“I believe once the Mayor and trustees walk it, he and others will see the beauty and reasonable size/scope involved,” Smith told The Garden City News via e-mail.
Smith, who has a passion for history, was the person mainly responsible for bringing the highly-acclaimed local military history exhibit to the Garden City Public Library last June. While he was doing research for his current proposal, Smith found the relatives of all seven men from Garden City who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.
Trustee Dennis Donnelly supports the project, but agreed with the Mayor that the Board needs to take a closer look at the details. “I know I’m very much in favor of doing this consolidation if we can,” he said. “I think Cyril has done some good work on it in terms of putting a plan together.”
Garden City resident Edward Tacchi, who served in the Marine Corps, called the Board’s attention to four granite markers located around the flagpole at St. Paul’s that memorialize former St. Paul’s School students who lost their lives serving our country. The markers include one for William Bradford Turner, who attended St. Paul’s for one year and later earned a Medal of Honor during WWI.
Tacchi asked that they all be included in the memorial consolidation plan. “They may be the only things to commemorate their passing,” he said.
Smith credits fellow Garden City resident Susan Alvey with the idea of moving the memorial area 300 feet west on Seventh Street near the gazebo. He described it is a more spacious, serene area with a flagpole that is illuminated in the evening. “It is an appropriate place to honor Garden City’s war dead,” he said in the e-mail.
Phase 1 of Smith’s plan calls for the cleaning and reinforcement of the current World War II plaque located at the site, and adding a memorial for Garden City veterans who died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also requests that the names of men who lost their lives during the Korean and Vietnam Wars be placed on their respective markers: two men who lost their lives during the Korean War, and seven men who lost their lives in Vietnam.
He emphasized that the plan calls for only two new markers. Two more markers will be modified and the rest will simply be transferred. He said the American Legion, Garden City Historical Society and others have been assisting in this effort.
Phase 1 of Smith’s plan also includes duplicating the plaque honoring World War I veterans who died, which is permanently located on the front lawn of the Garden City Middle School. “It has a historical reason to remain there,” he said. “A duplicate will properly allow a consolidation of the markers, in one location, for all of the Garden City residents who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Phase 2 of the plan involves moving the plaques honoring WWI and WWII veterans who lost their lives serving their country to the Seventh Street memorial site. At one time they were located at the Doubleday building. When the area was being renovated and the memorial plaques were in danger of being destroyed, they were moved to a Village yard and then the backyard of the Garden City Historical Society building. “Neither the Doubleday nor the St. Paul markers were intended for the limbo state they are in,” Smith said in an e-mail to The Garden City News.
Smith amended his proposal in early January to include a virtual wall similar to the ones found at www.virtualwall.org or www.thewall-usa.com. The Virtual Wall is a Web site that provides an index of names of those found on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. leading to memorials written by a friend or relative. Smith said it will allow for future expansion. Trustee Andrew Cavanaugh was pleased with this aspect of Smith’s proposal and asked the Board to pursue the idea in more depth.