MERIDEN — Even getting out of the house for Raymond J. Cichon Jr. is a struggle these days. He had a lung removed a few years ago because of the cancer that was spreading throughout his body toward his heart. He had a heart attack not long ago and is only living after being resuscitated. The numerous rounds of intensive chemotherapy have taken a toll on Cichon’s body and his health is only a fraction of what it once was.
“I don’t know how much time I have left,” said Cichon, 63, looking over the names on the city’s Vietnam War monument on Paddock Avenue.
Cichon is a veteran of the Vietnam War, having been discharged from the Army in 1973. For six months he served as a gunner on the back of a Jeep in Vietnam, though much of his time was spent in Germany. In 1972, he was in Munich during the Olympics when 11 people representing Israel were taken hostage by a group of Palestinians and killed.
Like many others who served in Vietnam and lived in Meriden, he was pleased to hear 13 years after his discharge that a group of veterans were raising money to erect a memorial. The memorial consists of a 33-ton stone donated by L. Suzio Concrete Co. listing the names of Meriden residents who died in Vietnam and three other plaques with the names of every other city resident who served in the war.
But despite his two years of service, Cichon’s name could not be found on the memorial outside the former World War II Veterans Memorial Hospital. Cichon and family members did what they could to get his name added to the list, but remained unsuccessful for years.
“He spoke with people at City Hall, we called everyone we could, we must have filled out the paperwork six times,” said Cichon’s youngest sister, Patricia Lavigne. “He has been through a lot the last few years and had a really hard time. He was saying he just wanted to see his name on the monument before he died.”
“I kept going back, I just couldn’t get anybody to help me,” Cichon added.
Cichon was one of numerous military veterans contacted last year by state Sen. Dante Bartolomeo’s office. Anybody who served in the military during the time of a war from Connecticut is eligible for a service medal, but Bartolomeo said many were unaware.
While Cichon did not have the medal, he remained focused on getting his name added to the memorial and asked if it was possible. He was referred to City Councilors Cathy Battista and Matthew C. Dominello, who were able to help.
“Ray deserved to have his name on there and for whatever reason, it was never added,” Battista said.
One of the plaques had space at the bottom and although they were unable to get Cichon’s name pressed into the plaque, they were able to secure an alternative. Cichon’s name was printed on a placard, which was screwed in among the list of names. Like the others, Cichon’s name was not listed alphabetically by design so that veterans looking for their name would notice names of people they served with.
“It means a lot to see it there,” he said.
A small ceremony was held for Cichon Thursday afternoon, during which he was also presented with citations from the City Council and the state legislature. After Battista pulled off a cloth unveiling the added name she looked over to Cichon.
“There’s not a spelling error, right?” she said, laughing.
“No, but I was worried,” he answered. “After all this, I was hoping not.”
Cichon is likely not the only Meriden resident whose name is missing from the memorial. Many of the residents whose names are included on the memorial were known to be Vietnam Veterans because they applied for a tax deduction granted to war veterans through City Hall. Some veterans, however, did not apply for the deduction, possibly because they didn’t know about it.
Between 200 and 500 veterans were believed to be missing from the memorial as of 1989, according to a Record-Journal article at the time.
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