Friday, 02 October 2009 00:00
Friday, Sept. 18, was a beautiful morning for the Gold Star Memorial Dedication Ceremony at Patriots Park, honoring those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. The memorial includes the monument and a reflecting pool, decorated for the occasion with abundant flowers and American flags. The American Legion Post 304 was well represented and smartly uniformed for the occasion as were the young soldiers of the U.S. Army, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
Following an introduction by American Legion Post 304 Commander James T. Brooks, Manhasset Park Commissioner Mark Sauvigne delivered welcoming remarks. Sauvigne related how shortly after Sgt. James J. Regan was killed in February 2007 in Iraq the Manhasset Park District thought it would be a fitting tribute to honor him in some special way and told the family when the time was right they would discuss it. With the backing of fellow Commissioners Bernard Ralston and Patricia Roberts and input from local architect James Gilhooley the plan for the Gold Star Memorial took shape. Since Sgt. Regan was the ultimate team player, Sauvigne said, the idea was not to signal him out but rather include him as one of the Manhasset residents who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their life, in defending their country. And what better place to build it, Sauvigne said, than on the grounds of Patriots Park next to the 911 Memorial.
Sgt. Regan was an Army Ranger and the ceremony derived special meaning having the young Rangers present, the date having been chosen so they could attend. Early in the ceremony both the Rangers and the Legionnaires were asked to stand for a rousing, yet touching, round of applause.
Sauvigne added that soldiers on the Gold Star Honor Roll were not identified as Democrats or Republicans, but young men who, when called, never hesitated, making the ultimate sacrifice giving their lives for their country.
Architect Gilhooley echoed those sentiments in his design, for the obelisk is sliced at an angle to represent the foreshortening of the monument, symbolizing, and similar to, the incomplete lives of the brave soldiers who died in battle.
The stripes on the monument are random lengths like the fingers of a hand, a patriotic hand, Gilhooley suggested, that comforts the wound of the obelisk.
The polished granite plaque will display the names of Manhasset’s fallen soldiers, and will have, sadly, room for additional names.
The fountain uses green technology with low voltage electronic controls, fiber optics and LED illumination along with re-circulated and filtered water. The fountain works periodically by intent, Gilhooley said, it is programmed to go on a few times an hour to attract attention to itself occasionally. The intent, he concluded, “Is to be respectful of those who lost their lives in defense of freedom, to attract, but not distract, passers-by who might stop their car for a closer look and thus reflect on the great sacrifices of our service people.”
Noted for their support of the ceremony were Architect James Gilhooley, Brian Kenny, Robert Steinkamp of Town and Country Flowers and Ken Caldwell, Designer Limousines, Port Washington. Work on the project was performed by the park district staff.
The invocation was given by Lieutenant Leslie K. Sias, CHC, USN, United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point.
James P. Regan thanked the park commissioners for the beautifully executed monument honoring his son and all Manhasset’s sons. Regan then introduced military guests, including Col. Richard D. Clark, United States Army Director of Operations, Joint Special Operations Command, who was the former 75th Ranger Regiment Commanding Officer. Col. Clark said we are a nation at war, for eight years now, and the Rangers have been deployed for the duration of that time—the sum of both World War I and II. He noted the veterans, “in their blue blazers and caps set the standards for us to follow—the greatest generation and another following behind you.” Clark thanked Manhasset for allowing the Rangers to be part of the ceremony and he also thanked the Regan family. And, the Colonel added. “A nation that does not honor its fallen will not last.”
Solemnly the names of the soldiers on Manhasset’s Gold Star Honor Roll were recited. Joe Horowitz sang a folksy version of God Bless America and Mary and Jim Regan positioned the lovely red, white and blue wreath at the monument.
Earlier in the ceremony Commissioner Mark Sauvigne quoted from the American Gold Star mothers charter granted by Congress in 1984, saying he believed it stated the purpose of the memorial well, “To perpetuate the memory of those whose lives were sacrificed in our wars.”
“I believe the Gold Star Memorial will stand the test of time and become an icon in the town of Manhasset,” Sauvigne commented, “and the Manhasset Park District is both proud and honored to be part of this well deserving tribute to all of our fallen heroes.”