The Veterans Commission last week honored two men for their efforts in upgrading Veterans Memorial Park.
The park now features a new gazebo with a picnic table and walkway to the parking lot, where handicapped parking and a new spot reserved for Purple Heart recipients were moved to face the park’s monument. From there, visitors can walk along a path of paving bricks to the circular monument, which is surrounded by bricks with the names of local veterans etched into them.
The paving stones were supplied and installed free of charge by town councilor Charles Paonessa, owner of DURA Construction, while Parks and Grounds Foreman Steve Wood oversaw the creation of the gazebo, picnic table and benches throughout the park, as well as the concrete pads beneath them all.
Both gentlemen were presented with plaques during a small ceremony Monday evening, Oct. 7.
Paonessa said he was inspired to do his part after visiting the park for a ceremony and noticing that residents with limited mobility could have difficulty reaching the monument.
“The veterans have done so much for our country. Not only that, but this park is such an asset for this community,” he said.
While installing the bricks with a few employees from his company over the course of three days, Paonessa was surprised to see how popular the park is. “It’s a very busy place,” he said.
The new blank gray bricks can be replaced with the red, clay bricks which are emblazoned with the names of veterans which surround the give markers and flagpoles — one section for each branch of the military.
Interest in the bricks has been so high that the section for Army veterans has already begun to overflow into the outer circle where Paonessa’s bricks are installed.
The $80 bricks cover the cost of maintenance for the park and other monuments operated by the Veterans Commission. They can be applied for via the commission’s page on the town website.
Aside from making the park more accessible, the upgrades also improved the park’s aesthetic appeal for residents, Wood said.
“It gives them a place to come to for people who have served our country and pay respect to them,” he said.
Peter Galgano, secretary of the Veterans Commission, said all the work offered by volunteers and the town show the pride Berlin has in its veterans. He said Wood’s department has done an exemplary job not only with the upgrades, but also the day-to-day upkeep of the grounds.
“It’s remarkable how the town’s helping us … between the park, the Wall of Honor,” Galgano said, referring to the digital display at Town Hall, where a slideshow of local veterans and their service information plays on a loop.
The park has become a popular field trip site for schools across the state. Students stroll between 13 signs detailing the conflicts U.S. soldiers have fought in.
“What we have here with the memorials and the signs, it lets the younger generations know about the cost of freedom,” Galgano said.