Posted on Sep 19, 2022
DANBURY — It’ll be almost a decade before a memorial for Afghanistan war veterans could be built at the nation’s capital.
But Afghanistan war veteran David Vieira believes now is the time to honor the memory of Iraq and Afghan war veterans with a new memorial in Rogers Park in Danbury.
Vieira, senior vice commander of VFW Post 149, and other veterans recently formed the Connecticut Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans War Memorial Committee to pursue that effort to honor those veterans. Vieira is chairman of the committee.
“This has been something the core group of our committee has been discussing for a couple of years,” Vieira said. “It’s finally moving forward so we are only in the early stages of the project. We also want to get the word out and connect with the residents of Connecticut to make them aware of the project.”
The monument will be constructed at the War Memorial site at Rogers Park, with an “ambitious goal” of a dedication day for Veterans Day 2023, he said.
“Connecticut does not have a memorial for these veterans, nor does (Washington) D.C because of their antiquated policy of waiting 10 years after the end of a war before one can be considered,” Vieira said. “Federal statute requires there to be 10 years between the end of a war and when Congress can work on a monument in D.C.”
Since the Afghanistan War end in August 2021, the earliest any federal monument would be considered for D.C. is 2031.
“Due to these unfortunate truths, we decided to get the ball rolling now for a memorial in Connecticut,” Vieira said. “Millions of young Americans fought in two wars over 20 years and I feel their sacrifice deserves to be honored now. Countless men, women and their families gave so much to this country, I feel they have earned a place of honor among the heroes of our previous wars today, not tomorrow.”
The war memorial committee is a mix of Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Guantanamo Bay and Kosovo veterans. The members are also from multiple veteran organizations that include the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Marine Corps League.
The committee is comprised of Vieira and his co-chairman, Juan Rivas,Treasurer Juan Vasquez, Adjutant Nelson Martins and Trustees Bill Moser, Lenny Esposito, Jairus Domenech and John Kennedy.
“I think a new war memorial honoring Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans is a great idea,” Mayor Dean Esposito said. “The Rogers Park area has been the site of an established war memorial for years. It would be a true honor for us to add to that and have a war memorial for our deserving Afghanistan and Iraq veterans.”
He said he’s talked to Rivas about it and plans to work with the Veterans Council to get it built.
“I’ll do whatever I can do to help, whatever we need to get it done, and that includes looking for some funding to support that effort,” Esposito said.
Dan Hayes, director of veterans affairs in Danbury, agreed.
“Although still in the planning stages, the new war memorial will be a great tribute to those that served,” he said.
Vieira said raising funds for the project is the priority at this time. The memorial is expected to cost at least $200,000, although the committee is still in the early stages of design and cost estimation.
“The cost will be the biggest obstacle, but it’s an obstacle I know we will meet,” said Vieira, 40, who lives in New Milford. He served in Afghanistan from 2010-2011 with the Army National Guard.
The committee is designing a website and plans to set up a GoFundMe fundraising page.
“We will be meeting with the mayor soon to discuss our plan in more detail and to explore the possibility of some city and state funding support,” Vieira said.
Until the GoFundMe page is created, you can make a donation by sending a check made payable to CT Afghan and Iraq War Memorial to 71 Newtown Road, Unit 114, Danbury, CT 06810. You can also get more information by sending an email to [email protected].
Afghan and Iraq Veterans War Memorial committee member Nelson Martins believes it is important to remember veterans from both wars.
“This memorial would stand as a reminder of the sacrifices that were made by veterans after Sept. 11 in defense of our country during two separate combat theaters,” Martins said.