New Veterans statue debuts in North Collins

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski. Pictured are the bricks to veterans Herbert C. Cook and Clark Rice. These two men were drafted, departed to war and discharged on the same day. The close placement on the tribute was touching to Cook.

NORTH COLLINS — Herbert Cook stood over his brick with astonishment at the North Collins Veterans’ Tribute after Saturday’s unveiling.

The tribute is a massive star that is filled with bricks, which commemorate those who served, and each point of the star is a different branch of the military with the points hoisting its respective flag. It lies next to the North Collins Senior Center in front of the Marion J. Fricano Memorial Town Park on Route 62.

Cook, a retired Army corporal, had his brick state that he was stationed in Korea and his years of service. What took him aback was his dear friend Clark Rice, who was also a retired Army corporal, whose brick was just a mere eight inches away from his.

Rice and Cook were drafted on the same day, left for war on the same day, discharged on the same day while taking the same boat, plane and train rides back to Buffalo. Though they were not stationed in the same military forts, the duo arrived back in Western New York with a new brotherly connection.

Now, 64 years after being stationed in Korea, Cook stands over their bricks and tells his story of the irony that they were placed so closely together. Despite Rice’s death three years ago, Cook knows Rice would have enjoyed the veteran’s tribute as well.

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski. The North Collins Veterans' Tribute stands in the Marion J. Fricano Memorial Park on Saturday during its unveiling. In the center, an 8,000 pound V-shaped statue is placed with hands cupping a bowl that will soon have an eternal flame atop it. The tribute is a star with each of the five points representing a different branch of the military. The V for the center statue is symbolic of many things like victory, valor and veterans.

Cook clutches his fist, places it on his chest and said, “It gets to you.”

President of the veteran’s tribute board Jim Lint has worked hard over the last five years to get the project completed. He estimated the total project would cost around $350,000, but through donated work and supplies, the committee only needed to raise $150,000 to get the work done so far. The site still needs to add the lights for the base of the flags, benches, a garden in the back of the site and finish the ignition for the eternal flame in the centerpiece.

Lint started the project five years ago at a town board meeting. The town board was discussing ways to get more tourism into North Collins. There were talks of how the town doesn’t have some attractions like a veteran’s tribute.

“(The North Collins Town Board) said, ‘Who wants to build a memorial?’ and I put my hand up.”

Five years, 16,000 bricks with 400 named bricks and a lot of donations later, the tribute stands mostly finished.

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski. Members of both the North Collins American Legion Post 1640 and the Newell Faulkner American Legion Post 880 in Eden stand in preparation for the unveiling of the North Collins Veterans' Tribute on Saturday

“It’s remarkable,” Lint said at the event. “This turnout is unbelievable.”

The veterans who ventured across the star to see the names and bricks all had a similar sentiment: appreciation.

Marvin Winter is a Navy veteran and a member of the North Collins American Legion Post 1640.

“It’s a great honor to have something like this in the town,” Winter said. “We did lose some members of our town in the Vietnam War, plus all the other wars.”

Paul Lawton, a past commander and current member of the Newell Faulkner American Legion Post 880 in Eden, complimented the fact that the tribute was like no other.

“It puts us on top of the world, really,” said Lawton, who is also the vice president of the veteran’s tribute board. “You can see other locations that have done things and I’ve been down in North Carolina to veterans’ sites such as this, but to see something stand out like a star” is special.

Though the bricks are laid, it is not too late to have an engraved brick added. The cost ranges from $100-200 with customizations including military logo and size of the brick. To look into the bricks, go to bit.ly/NCVeteransTribute.

Twitter: @ByKuczkowski