HARTFORD —— A memorial to honor the 1.5 million Connecticut veterans who have served their country since the Revolutionary War has finally found a home.
"This is for all the veterans and those who sacrificed their lives for this country," said Miguel Torruella, a Vietnam War veteran who served with the U.S. Marine Corps.
The search for a home for the memorial began in 2007. The initial plan was for the memorial to be built in Rocky Hill, across from the State Veteran's Home.
But the cost – about $1.5 million – and a lack of support from veterans who felt the memorial should be built in the capital city, led state veterans Commissioner Linda Schwartz to seek an alternative. She said at a ground-breaking ceremony Monday that she found it during a visit to the legislative office building.
The new site for the memorial is Minuteman Park, between the state armory and the legislative office building.
"I was at the end of my rope," Schwartz said. "I was coming here for a meeting and I saw school children and I just thought 'Look at this, this is perfect,' " she said.
The change of venue and of the design cost about $100,000. Connecticut State Veteran's Memorial, the organization that has been raising funds for the new memorial, which is estimated to cost $700,000, has received about $300,000 in contributions so far. The state has pledged $500,000.
When asked why the memorial had been delayed for years, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he did not have a good explanation.
"I don't know,'' Malloy told reporters Monday. "I'm relatively new at this job. I don't understand why people couldn't get something like this done. It's kind of crazy, don't you think? You have a whole bunch of veterans who haven't lived to see the memorial that will be dedicated to their service. I can assure you that once I got involved, we moved it pretty quickly. … This is the same one that was going to be at Rocky Hill. But I think this is just a better location – outside the armory, in the capital city, in a very public place. I'm very happy with this.''
Construction is expected to begin within a month and Schwartz is hopeful a dedication ceremony can be held in November, before Veteran's Day.
Retired Army Staff Sgt. Dolores Nieves, a veteran of the Korean War, participated in the groundbreaking ceremony Monday, Nieves, of Avon, said the memorial is important to him and others who fought in Korea but who, he said, have largely been forgotten.
"It's very nice," he said.
Monday's groundbreaking included comments from Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Maj. General Thaddeus Martin of the Connecticut National Guard.
"I don't want to overstate the obvious, but this event has been a long time coming," Martin said. "There's no more fitting location than right here in Minuteman Park and I look forward to the next event, the ribbon-cutting."
More information about the memorial can be found at http://www.cthonorsvets.org.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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