A new stone monument commemorating those who served in the Cold War, Desert Storm, the second Iraq War and war in Afghanistan adorns the Bellmore Veteran’s Memorial at the Bellmore Train Station.
John Benson III, a junior at Mepham High School, erected the memorial, along with two memorial boxes, for his Eagle Scout project. He unveiled the additions to Bellmore’s memorial on Nov. 12 and, on a blisteringly cold Sunday morning, dozens gathered to show their support.
“This group of veterans is often forgotten,” Benson said. “I thought it was time we remembered them.”
Benson said that he inspiration also came from his father John Benson Jr., who served in the U.S. Army during the Cold War and was stationed in Fort Wainwright in Alaska from 1987 through 1991.
“He just told me that he wanted to do something for veterans,” Benson Jr. said of his son. When Benson learned that the Bellmore memorial was last updated before the Vietnam War, he pledged to make it the focus of his project. The only obstacle, however, was the price of the memorial stone.
Last year, Frank Czarnecki, an alumnus of Benson’s troop, wanted to update the memorial for his Eagle Scout project, but was dissuaded by troop leaders because of the price. “I don’t care if the kid wants to build a Statue of Liberty,” Benson Jr. said. “If it’s a kid’s dream to do something, you don’t crush that dream.”
As he unveiled the stone, Benson gave a shout-out to Czarnecki and said that he planted the seeds for the project.
In five months, Benson was able to raise over $6,000 for the memorial by joining with Bellmore’s Veterans of Foreign Wars organization and holding several fundraisers. Additionally, he sold t-shirts, magnets and water bottles at Bellmore’s weekly flea markets and car shows.
“I wanted to give back to our veterans through this project,” Benson said. “I wanted to say thank you.”