After several years and two failed groundbreaking attempts, state officials and veterans picked up their shovels and tossed some mud Monday at the future site of the first statewide veterans memorial.
Conceived in 2008 under former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell the veterans memorial wasn’t an easy sell. Veterans, who were looking for an annual place to celebrate their service and remember those lost, were unable to get behind the idea of building an amphitheater in a Rocky Hill cemetery, Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz said Monday.
After spending about $100,000 on designing the amphitheater and two failed attempts at a groundbreaking, the Connecticut State Veterans Memorial Inc. finally decided to move the memorial. They settled on a spot in Minuteman Park outside the state Armory in Hartford.
“If you don’t have the support of the veteran community things like this are not going to happen,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said the Rocky Hill project “was like the bridge to nowhere.” She said many of the veterans did not embrace the idea of having a statewide memorial in Rocky Hill.
They also couldn’t justify the expense of the amphitheater so they worked with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to scale back the project to a memorial that would honor the 1.3 million Connecticut citizens who have served the state and the nation since the Revolutionary War.
The memorial, which is expected to be completed this November, will include five columns representing each branch of military service and a semi-circular Honor wall that will act as the memorial’s framing element.
There will also be a kiosk with information about Connecticut through the periods of service. Schwartz said the location is perfect because it’s where school children visiting the Capitol complex off-load students for tours.
“We wanted it to be simple and elegant and serviceable,” Schwartz said.
In 2008 the Connecticut State Veteran Memorial organization was created to help bring in donations for the project. The organization raised more than $300,000 in private donations, including $100,000 from Rell herself.
About $500,000 in borrowing was approved under the Rell administration for the project, which was originally supposed to cost $1.5 million and open in 2010. The project has since been scaled back to $700,000 and the group has raised about $650,000.
What took so long?
Malloy said he doesn’t know why the project has been delayed.
“I’m relatively new at this job. I don’t know why people couldn’t have gotten something like this done,” Malloy said. “It’s kind of crazy.”
Schwartz anticipates the memorial to be completed by November. For more information or to find out how to make a donation, visit www.cthonorsvets.org