Planned memorial will honor Iraq, Afghanistan veterans

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Veteran John Sottnik, commander of American Legion Post 1273 in Wantagh, said that all veterans have made sacrifices and should be recognized for their efforts.

“Every war is an individual pursuit, none are the same and they all deserve their recognition for their sacrifices,” Sottnik, who served in the Iraq War in 2006, said.

Many others who served in Afghanistan and Iraq will be honored with a new memorial that was announced at Eisenhower Park last week.

On Oct. 7, the 20th anniversary of the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, Nassau County officials broke ground on the memorial. It is expected to be unveiled sometime next year.

The monument, in the park’s Veterans Memorial Park, will be the first of its kind on Long Island and one of the first in New York state dedicated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will join memorials honoring the branches of the armed forces and veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The concept for the memorial is credited to Acting Nassau County Attorney John Chiara, who served in Afghanistan and is still active in the Army Reserves. The memorial’s construction will be a joint project of Heroes Among Us, a Glen Cove-based nonprofit that supports veterans across the region, the United Veterans Organization of Nassau County and local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.

“It’s very important to honor those who served,” Seaford American Legion Post 1132 Commander Bill Hoehn said. “It helps the guys that are alive and it gives them inspiration. These people followed orders and went to war to protect our country, and they should absolutely be honored.”

The monument, designed by 23-year-old Franklin Square resident Maya Fernandez, will feature a battlefield cross flanked by two marble walls. The walls will display images of a kneeling male soldier, a kneeling female soldier and maps of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We are excited to have the assistance from our community to properly respect and honor our veterans in building this monument, which we feel was overdue,” Virginia Cervasio, founder of Heroes Among Us, said in a statement.

The memorial will not include veterans’ names, but may display a ribbon to highlight service members who died by suicide after leaving the service.

“Now, finally, our most recent conflicts will be memorialized as well,” County Executive Laura Curran said at a press conference at the groundbreaking. “With this memorial, we finally get to honor the next generation of Americans who have chosen to serve.”

The projected cost of the monument is $150,000 to $200,000, Matthew Schmidt, president of the Nassau Police Veterans Association said. “It’s an honor that we get to do this for the veterans out there,” Schmidt said at the press conference. “This is for Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. They can come here and they can reflect about their service, about the service members and friends that they lost while they were overseas, and it’s also for the families that lost service members overseas.”

There will be a fundraiser on Friday at BrewSA, in Freeport, to raise money for the memorial.

“As the County Commander for the Nassau County Council VFW, I am pleased to be able to assist with this important memorial,” Christian Peterkin said in a statement. “This monument is a tribute to our Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans, and this will be another way for us to engage with our fellow Vets and get them involved.”

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