By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — Niagara Falls veterans, joined by their families, citizens and politicians in remembering those that have given to this country through military service, stood through frigid November wind and rain at the newly minted Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial for speeches and ceremonies.
The wind gusts sent old glory into frenzied ripples as about 250 people stood through the barley-above-freezing temperatures, bundled in coats and hats as "Amazing Grace" played on the bag pipes, "Taps" played over the speakers and the famous war poem "In Flanders Field" was read aloud.
David Fabrizio, one of the founding members of the Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial Commission and a veteran himself, thanked the many veterans who braved the driving rain to attend the Veterans Day services, as well as those that came out to honor them.
Fabrizio pointed to a sealed sarcophagus bearing the names of 463 Niagara Falls residents that died in battle and said that standing through the nasty fall weather was a small sacrifice compared to what those men gave to their country.
"We're going to put up with one hour of inclement weather in their honor," he said.
After the ceremony, standing next to the sarcophagus — built to the exact scale of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery — Fabrizio said that it was "incredible" to see the monument completed seven years after the commission set out on its task.
"It's not just brick and mortar," he said. "There's a lot of preparation work, planning."
Fabrizio said the most important part of the day's ceremony was being able to offer some comfort to military families that have lost their soldiers, whether in conflict or at home.
"... we've brought some closure, we've brought some honor to those gold star families that were out here today," he said.
Ella Dolson shuffled up to the wall after the service with a group of friends and family, black coat and hat, with tears welling up in her eyes as she sought out the name of her husband, Nathan Albert Dolson Jr.
Nathan, a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve with 29 years experience who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffered a heart attack and died while on duty at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in late August. He was 49 years old.
Ella said seeing Nathan's name on the wall brought her some comfort.
"I'm just grateful that he's being honored," she said.
Ella said the community support demonstrated at the ceremony helped the family in coping with their loss.
"I'm overwhelmed," Ella said. "Just ecstatic."
Gloria Dolson-Robertson, Nathan's mother, couldn't hold back as she remembered her son, cold rain drops mixing with her warm tears as they rolled down her cheeks from behind her sunglasses.
"You really don't appreciate or even realize what our service men and women do until it really hits you," she said.
Representatives from Lafarge, one of the many companies and organizations to donate labor or materials to the project, were on hand for the event.
Perry Goldenzi, the company's area manager for Western New York, said the company donated materials in order to show support for service men and women throughout the country.
"We're very proud to be part of the community and participate in any way we can," Galdenzi said.
Veterans of all branches are welcome to purchase a spot on the wall for their name. Applications are available at the city clerk's office, the office of the city council — both in city hall — and at the Old Glory Flag and Banner Co. located at 7350 Porter Road. Each name costs $125.Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257