Gov. Dannel Malloy spoke June 5, at Veterans Memorial Park in Middletown, Connecticut where a “Trees of Honor” living memorial will be built.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett

“This is such an inspired idea. A way to honor in a living fashion, a growing fashion, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told those gathered June 5, at Veterans Memorial Park in Middletown, CT.

The governor said he did not want to miss the opportunity to be present Tuesday afternoon for the announcement that the park had been selected as the site for a “Connecticut Trees of Honor” living memorial to the state’s fallen soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke of the visits he and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman have made to the families of Connecticut’s fallen soldiers since taking office, noting that every time – “our hearts go out to the families.”  The living memorial that will be “observed and enjoyed by children and adults” he said, is “a warm way for those families to remember their loved ones.”

Recalling the absence of  public ‘welcome homes’ for American soldiers who returned from the unpopular war in Viet Nam, his brother and other family members among them, Malloy took a moment to thank all of America’s  past soldiers for their sacrifices during the time of our republic. Malloy also thanked Sue Martucci, who originated the idea for the living memorial and chairs the Connecticut Trees of Honor Memorial, Inc. Committee, the other committee members that include Ann Walsh, Nancy Rousselle, Jean Risley, Gold Star Mother Diane DeLuzio, Matt McDonald and Sophia Lighari, as well as, expressing appreciation to landscape architect Tom Linden and Middletown Mayor Dan Drew.

Sue Martucci, chairperson of the Connecticut Trees of Honor Memorial, Inc. Committee originated the idea for the living memorial.

Malloy said it was a credit to “this young mayor” for showing leadership in the city’s “willingness to embrace this idea to give a portion of itself in remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.” Connecticut has lost 63 of its own in the two wars. “I hope that these conflicts soon finally come to an end and that we will end at 63. I fear that will not be the case, and I fear that other Americans will be called on to make the sacrifice that so many have made,” said Malloy.

Middletown, Connecticut Mayor Dan Drew.

“This is a fitting tribute and an honor for the city of Middletown to be able to pay homage, and in a permanent way show the respect that the men and women of our country who fell in the service of our country deserve,” Drew said – adding that in so doing , Middletown is also honoring the principles upon which the United States was built.

With the sun shining and a slight breeze in the air, Martucci of Bloomfield stepped up to the microphone.

“I am pleased, excited and grateful,” she said, “Three years ago I had an idea. The idea became a dream, the dream became a passion and that passion started to become a reality, to honor those in this state who have served in these wars that have lasted over 10 years.”

Larry McHugh, president of the Middletown Chamber of Commerce pledged a $1,000 donation for the Trees of Honor Memorial.

Phil Cacciota, commander of American Legion Post 75.

“So many families and friends have borne the heavy burden of loss and suffering,” Martucci went on to say,” We cannot bring these men and women back to us, but we can honor and remember them through this memorial tribute so that our generation and those who come after may know who they are… and the price they paid for our freedom.”

Phil Cacciota, commander of American Legion Post 75 told the group,

“As a lifelong resident, I’m proud of the city for the way we honor our veterans.”

Larry McHugh, president of the Middletown Chamber of Commerce pledged a $1,000 donation for the memorial.

Ann Walsh of Windsor,CT., a member of the Connecticut Trees of Honor Memorial, Inc. Committee shoots video of the June 5 memorial site selection for WIN-TV.

According to Martucci, towns throughout central Connecticut were looked at but after careful consideration the Middletown site was chosen.. “After a yearlong search, we finally found the right home for the Trees of  Honor memorial,” she said.

Wearing his Purple Heart medal, McDonald of Wethersfield who served and was wounded in Iraq, said later being part of the memorial committee has been a healing experience for him. Just the day before, McDonald had visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as part of Operation Gift Card which is organized by the Disabled American Veterans and AmVets. McDonald said seeing other soldiers who were wounded even more seriously than himself and their indomitable spirits gave him perspective.

“I’ve been through a lot. I call it ‘the long road back’,” he said, “I appreciated what the governor had to say, it (the memorial) gives life to the sacrifices, it’s unique and inspiring.”

The memorial will be funded and constructed with public donations and will include a tree planted for each of Connecticut’s fallen who gave their lives serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and a personalized plague displayed next to each tree. It will be a reflective area featuring walkways, flower gardens, benches, flagpoles, statues and lighting.

With the site for the Trees of Honor Memorial in the background are: left to right, Nancy Rousselle, Jean Risley, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Sue Martucci, Matt McDonald, Ann Walsh, Tom Linden and Diane DeLuzio.

Fundrasing for the memorial is underway with a goal of starting construction in about a year. The Trees of Honor Memorial, Inc. will host a fundraiser on June 22 in Windsor at Dom’s Broad Street Eatery from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., a pasta dinner is slated at the Elks Club in Windsor sometime in June and a September 13 wine tasting fundraiser will be held at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown.

Donations can be made for the memorial by making checks payable to: Connecticut Trees of Honor Memorial, Inc. (CTHM, Inc.) c/o Colleen Dowd, Treasurer, P.O. Box 234, Windsor, CT 06095. For more information visit: CTTREESOFHONOR.COM