Two new monuments have joined Eisenhower Park’s Veterans Memorial in field 6 ahead of Memorial Day. The area was packed on May 28 as a Memorial Day service was conducted.
One of the new monuments was dedicated to disabled veterans of Nassau County. The other paid homage to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officials said this monument is Long Island’s first memorial honoring those who served in those areas.
The Iraq and Afghanistan monument is made up of four large granite slabs with messages engraved on them. In the middle sits a bronze battlefield cross complete with boots, a rifle and a helmet. The etchings on the slabs depict maps of Iraq and Afghanistan showing where some of the main battles took place. The outer two slabs show soldiers with touching quotes.
“When our values and freedoms are tested there are volunteers that answer our country’s call. We call them soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines,” one slab reads.
“The values of a country can we measured in the character and compassion of the men and women who defend those values,” the other reads.
Veterans from across the county came to Eisenhower to see the monuments.
“This is very special,” said Steve Seidenstein, 41, of Bellmore, who served in multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. “This is the time to honor our fallen brothers and sisters who have given the ultimate sacrifice and to appreciate all the service that they and all of us do currently to keep America free.”
Seidenstein said he comes from a military family and that is what ultimately led him to serve. He was a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and later served as a military police officer.
“This is why we’re here,” Frank Salamino, quartermaster of the Veterans of Foreign War Post 2736 in East Meadow, said. “We have to pay honor to the people who are fallen veterans. This monument is important because no one noticed them until 20 years later.”
County Executive Bruce Blakeman along with other elected officials, and members of various veterans organizations came to show their respect and support for those who served and the new pieces.
“It’s touching, it’s very touching,” Lecia Rodriques-Whyte, who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years and in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, said about seeing the monument, “(It) makes you remember soldiers that died because of hidden wars or tragedy in the military, but it’s touching and I think it’s beautiful. We deserve it.”
Rodriques-Whyte, 65, of Elmont, is the commander of the American Legion Post 1033 in Elmont. She also works with a lot of soldiers in mental health at the Brooklyn VA hospital. She said that people shouldn’t judge homeless veterans on the streets.
“There’s a lot of hidden wars,” she said. “Soldiers have suffered so much in the military with different types of illnesses, and they come home and it really bogs them down.”
The funds for the monument were raised by various veterans groups, said Kevin Colón, the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Levittown-Island Trees Post 9592. They raised more than $100,000 for the piece itself, and the County paid for the installation.
Colón, 42, is a Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
“We wanted to make this monument inviting to all members of the veteran community and their families,” Colón said. “I felt it was important to recognize Iraq and Afghanistan, and ensure that our Gulf War veterans finally received the recognition that they deserve.”