By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Joined by city and state leaders and members of West Haven’s Veterans Council and three fire departments, dozens of veterans and their families from all corners of Connecticut and beyond turned out June 4 to help dedicate 58 bricks as part of the 14th phase of the Veterans Walk of Honor.
Standing on the Walk of Honor in the heart of Bradley Point Park, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi delivered remarks to the patriotic crowd, many donning red, white and blue.
“Thank you to the West Haven Veterans Council for continuing this tradition as well as city Human Resources Commissioner Beth A. Sabo for overseeing the construction (of each installment of the walkway’s bricks),” said Rossi, speaking in front of a black granite memorial in commemoration of World War II Army Pfc. William A. Soderman.
Rossi continued: “Here we honor both the living and deceased veterans, and I would like to reflect on the valor of our brave men and women who served. I hope that each of you are able to take a moment today, spending time with each installment here. I would like to thank each veteran for their service, their courage and their commitment to our country.”
State Rep. Dorinda Borer served as the master of ceremonies for the late-afternoon event, postponed from a week earlier because of rain.
“We want to thank those who are participating in this phase and all phases, as we know this symbolization is significant to each of you,” said Borer, D-West Haven. “Some of the bricks were bought for your brother, your son, your daughter, your father. I actually have one here for my father, and some of you have purchased a brick for a near and dear friend.
“Whomever you are recognizing, we know you carry them in your heart, and together, we are thankful for their service.”
The seaside ceremony also featured remarks by Veterans Council President Dave Ricci, a Marine Corps vet who served in the Vietnam War.
“At this time of year, we take a moment to honor and remember the fallen for their courage, commitment and sacrifice, for they are the real heroes,” Ricci said. “To those who died, we will mourn your passing; to those who lived, we will bless your name.”
The half-hour program commenced with a procession of local and state officials and West Haven fire chiefs and officers and followed with a flag-raising by the West Haven Fire Department Honor Guard, composed of members of the West Haven Fire Department, the West Shore Fire Department and the City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown.
It included the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by West Haven resident Nora E. Mullins, a prayer by Mullins’ father, city Planning and Zoning Commissioner Steven R. Mullins, and the singing of “God Bless America,” also by Nora Mullins.
Ricci then introduced Veterans Council Secretary Steve Carney, a Vietnam Army vet, who read a poem written by Army Maj. Michael Davis O’Donnell on New Year’s Day 1970 at the Battle of Dak To in Vietnam.
The event concluded with a wreath-laying at the base of the William A. Soderman Memorial by Vietnam Army veteran Al Beck Sr. and his son, Al Beck Jr., followed by taps played by retired West Shore fire Lt. Kevin McKeon.
After the ceremony, families lined the Walk of Honor to search for bricks they purchased in honor of loved ones, living and deceased. Each $75 brick has a personalized message engraved in charcoal lettering.
In November 2006, the Veterans Council began the first of 14 campaigns selling bricks to memorialize vets on the 100-yard walkway between the Soderman and Vietnam Veterans memorials.
About 2,900 bricks have been installed to date, including 130 for the 13th phase, which was dedicated June 5, 2021.
In May 2015, the dedication of the eighth phase included the dedication of a granite stone in memory of Veterans Council President Lorelee “Lori” Grenfell, who died in 2015 at age 60. The memorial was crafted by Giordano Bros. Monuments of West Haven.
The Walk of Honor’s first phase and the city’s Korean War Memorial were dedicated in May 2007.
In May 2008, the walkway’s second phase and the Soderman memorial were dedicated.
Soderman received the Medal of Honor after he distinguished himself in December 1944 while defending an important road junction near Rocherath, Belgium.
On July 1, 1984, Bradley Point Park’s flagpole was dedicated in memory of Soderman, who died in 1980.
In addition to overseeing the construction of all phases of the walkway, which was built by City Point Construction Co. of West Haven, Sabo has supervised the design and placement of the granite Korean War and Soderman memorials, which were made by Shelley Bros. Monuments of Guilford.
Also in 2008, 14 grave markers signifying every war in U.S. history and peacetime were dedicated. The markers are mounted on granite posts.