Lewiston will commemorate Veterans Day with the unveiling of a new monument at Academy Park.
The VFW Post 7487 has been working since last June to plan, design and construct the new Veterans of Foreign Wars Circle of Honor monument The monument, engineered by John and David Giusiana, along with prime contractor Rocco DelGrosso of Krislyn Company, will be formally dedicated during a short ceremony at 6:15 p.m. today.
The new monument will highlight Academy Park's eternal flame, which has been repositioned as a more central feature of the monument. It will list the names of 550 veterans, all of whom have either lived or worked in Lewiston, and feature the plaque from the original monument, which was dedicated in 1955.
VFW Quartermaster Vince Canosa said that there were a number of issues with the previous monument that they wanted to address when designing the new one. First among them was the fact that the names were arranged in rows rather than columns, making it difficult to find the veteran guests were looking for.
"It would take you a long time to find somebody's name on there," he said. "So if you took my name, if it ended up at the end of the row, my last name would be on one row and my first name would be down on the next row."
He said the second issue was with the flame. Often it would be found to be extinguished, or people would throw trash into the flame. The new design aims to keep the flame from being disturbed. Thirdly, the old monument was located on a Village of Lewiston water main, and they wanted to make sure the main was protected.
The ceremony will include music, a flyover from the Niagara County Sheriff Office's helicopter, an appearance from the Air Force Honor Guard and a "Procession of Honored History," featuring more than 20 reenactors portraying American soldiers from the various conflicts the U.S. has been involved in over the years.
"All the tablets will be covered up and the only thing you'll be able to see is the flame," Canosa said. "Then we're going to have the reenactors ... they're going to dress up, starting with the Revolutionary War, then the War of 1812, the Civil War, Korea, Vietnam, World War II ... and we'll end up with guys the guys from Iraq and Afghanistan."
The ceremony will feature Federal Judge Michael Roemer as the master of ceremonies, who will introduce various dignitaries in attendance, gold sponsors and also Janet Dustan, who will address guests in honor of her late brother Marine Lance Corporal Stanton Dyke, who died on Feb. 9, 1968 at age 23, while serving in Vietnam.
While there will be 550 names of Lewiston veterans on the monument when its formally unveiled, there's still room for roughly 500 additional veterans who haven't been included yet. New names will be added twice a year for presentation on Memorial and Veterans days.
Any honorably discharged soldiers who served in any war from the Revolution up through current conflicts and have a connection to Lewiston are eligible to have their name added to the monument. Interested parties must submit an application, which can be found at lewistonvfw.org, evidence of "honorable service" and a $150 donation.
"Whatever (extra money from donations) we raise will go toward upkeep," Canosa said, noting that the monument has to be cleaned every few years and that the VFW will contribute toward wifi costs so that a live stream of the monument can be posted online so that the monument can be monitored and also viewed by internet users around the world.
The VFW says a webcam will be installed soon, and that benches will also be placed along the sides of the memorial, which were paid for by various donors.
The VFW is also raising money by selling off 10 "first day covers" featuring the recently released Circle of Honor commemorative stamp with a Lewiston postmark dated for Nov. 11. These will be available in exchange for a $100 donation to the VFW.