Not far from where he told a Suffolk legislator at last May’s Setauket Memorial Day parade of a gnawing problem, Jack Gozdziewski stood Thursday with fellow veterans to solemnly celebrate what they hope will be a solution.
By next spring, four area stone memorials — tributes to Americans who served in wars forever remembered — could include the names of more recent conflicts, part of Gozdziewski’s effort to ensure the service members who fought in them are not forgotten.
“I wondered to myself as a veteran if the site didn’t reflect the conflict I fought in, how I would feel,” said Gozdziewski, 72, of Mt. Sinai, as he joined Thursday with other vets, community residents and local politicians at the Setauket Village Green to announce the update plans.
“Operation Remember,” inspired by Gozdziewski’s Memorial Day discussion with Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) as well input from area veterans groups, would see the addition of plaques and stones recognizing conflicts where Americans fought and died in the post-Vietnam era.
They hope to raise the $30,000 needed to update four local war memorials to include more recent conflicts. Hahn’s office and veterans groups — the Long Island Veterans Home as well as American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson — created the Veterans Memorial Fund specifically for fundraising efforts.
Hahn, who joined Gozdziewski and others at a Setauket news conference Thursday, said she too had long felt the memorials she grew up with were somehow incomplete.
“I’ve been visiting these monuments for most of my life,” Hahn said near a massive boulder on the village green honoring veterans of World War I, World War II as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. “I felt something was missing.”
By Memorial Day 2019, organizers hope to have modified war memorials on the Setauket Village Green, Setauket Veterans Memorial Park, Stony Brook Village and Port Jefferson Harbor.
After discussion among the partners, it was decided the memorials would be updated to honor the service of veterans of the Gulf War and the global war on terror — including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Cold War, which arose in the post-World War II era but continued far beyond the Vietnam War, will also be recognized.
“We felt these categories would be the most inclusive,” Hahn said.
Gozdziewski said broader categories will allow for tributes to service members involved in smaller battles.
“We had a lot of discussions,” he said of talks among the various veterans’ groups. “There are so many conflicts, Cambodia, Haiti, Grenada, Panama.”
David F. Johnson, a North Babylon resident and Gulf War veteran, came to Setauket — steeped in Revolutionary War history — to learn about the battles that gave rise to a new nation.
When told about efforts to soon update the memorials, he agreed with the plan.
“We should be recognized,” Johnson said. “We did as much as any other veterans.”