Cromwell dedicates memorial ‘in honor of those who served’
CROMWELL — Four years in the making, Cromwell’s revived and expanded veteran’s memorial was dedicated with expressions of pride and reverence.
Pride in the transformation and reverence for the men and woman of Cromwell who have served, or are serving now, in the nation’s armed forces, and by extension, the town’s first responders.
The memorial sits at the south end of Valour Green off Route 99/Main Street in the shadow of the Holy Apostle Seminary.
The early-afternoon weekend ceremony took place under a faultless late summer sky and attracted in excess of 200 people.
A memorial to residents who served in the Korean and/or Vietnam wars was originally established on the site in the 1970s.
But officials of Cromwell’s American Legion Post, the Carlson-Sjovall Post No. 105, said that memorial was too small and too spare to attract attention.
And so, they began to discuss among themselves a more appropriate memorial.
Four years ago, Legion officials received a sketch of a possible new memorial from landscaper (and current Town Councilor) Myron P. Johnson.
Using the sketch as a starting point, Legion officials began casting about for a way to realize Johnson’s vision.
The result was a circular plaza made of pavers.
At the rear of the plaza is a low curved rock wall topped by a stone marker; on it is a simple dedication: “In Honor of Those Who Served.”
The initial memorial had a single flagpole for the American flag.
The re-done memorial now has six additional poles, one for each of military services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, and a unique flag honoring the Merchant Marine.
Less well-known today, the Merchant Marines are civilians who served aboard oil tankers and cargo ships that were critical to America’s success in World War II.
A total of 733 ships sailed by merchant mariners were sunk, with the loss of 9,300 sailors killed, another 12,000 wounded, and 663 taken prisoners, according to ushistory.com.
Numerous sources report the mariners’ 1:26 ratio of those who served and those who were killed is the highest casualty rate of any service in World War II.
As the scope of the memorial here expanded, there was need for physical assistance, much of supplied by various members of the town staff, according to Post Commander Lou Gagnon.
“In many ways, this (project) was like a big military campaign,” Gagnon said.
Support was provided by Town Engineer Jon Harriman, and members of the Highway Department and the Parks and Recreation Department, he said.
Gagnon tracked down a mason in New Hampshire who built the wall using material from Connecticut Stone in Milford.
The re-purposed memorial “reflects the strong will of the people of Cromwell,” Gagnon said.
“It’s a fitting tribute to these Cromwell residents who served in the armed forces, and their spirit of courage, duty, honor and sacrifice,” Gagnon said.
Many people lent a hand as well, especially Allan Waters, who is a Legionnaire and town councilor, and who was “steadfastly involved in this project over the past two-and-a-half years,” Gagnon said.
As the scope of the project expanded so did those who would be honored by the memorial.
Rather than limiting the memorial to veterans of Korea and Vietnam, the Legion extended the tribute back to those who served in all of America’s war beginning with the Revolutionary War and continuing up until today.
They then decided to expand the scope of those being honored to include first responders and finally civilians, residents or their friends who did not serve in the armed forces.
The cost of the project grew as well.
Legion officials hit on the idea of using engraved pavers to defray some of the cost.
More pavers will need to be sold to cover the final cost of the project, Legion officials said.
The main address was delivered by Mayor Enzo Faienza, who spoke of the debt of gratitude owed to those who served and in particular those who were killed in the service of the nation.
He read off a list of men from Cromwell who died beginning in World War I and continuing up through Vietnam,
They are, from World War I: Edwin E. Carlson, Edward S. Couch, Edward Gullstrand, Paul W. Ranney and Joseph A. Sjovall.
From World War II: Kazmir Adamowicz, Albert E. Anderson Jr., Eldort A. Brauer, Robert W. Dennehy, Anthony L. Dlugolesnski, Charles E. Frazee, Joseph Majewicz, Burton T. Oberg, Louis Pozanski, Anthony A. Rook, and John Skoomin.
In Korea: J. W. Herlsdton.
In Vietnam: Thomas William Fristch, Richard Daniel Millane.
Faienza said residents from other towns have repeatedly remarked how the revitalized memorial is “absolutely amazing.”
He said he agreed.
“This is our community. Cromwell is an amazing community that loves and respects our armed forces. This is a testament to what our town is made of,” he said.
“It is a testament to the sweat, blood, tears to the men who served and to the lives that were left on our battlefields,” Faienza said.
“This is a monument that will also be a remembrance that our freedom did not come for free,” he added.
Many in the audience were moved by a remembrance of Edward Marchinkoski offered by his son Bryan.
The elder Marchinkoski was a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, having been awarded the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, and three Purple hearts (which are awarded to people injured in combat.)
The Silver Star is the third highest award for valor in combat.
Marchinkoski’s unit was caught in a Viet Cong/North Vietnamese ambush that seemed almost certain to result in the death of all those in the unit.
That his unit survived is a testament to Marchinkoski’s heroism in helping to throw the VC/NVA off-balance, Bryan Marchinkoski said.
Unfortunately, his father came home from Vietnam “haunted by demons,” Bryan Marchinkoski said.
“I thought a small part of him remained in Vietnam” after that cataclysmic battle, the younger Marchinkoski said.
But numberless people are alive today “because of his heroism,” he said of his father, who died in 2017.
The ceremony ended with Richard F. Donohue, president of the Cromwell Historical Society, leading the audience in a spirited rendition of “God Bless America.”