Western Mass. committee to create memorial to Iraq, Afganistan veterans halfway to collecting needed money

Western Mass. committee to create memorial to Iraq, Afganistan veterans halfway to collecting needed money

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A committee made up of veterans and their supporters across Western Massachusetts has collected half the money needed to build a memorial to remember the 16 local men who have been killed in war in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The Western Massachusetts Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom Committee has raised $7,776 in donations in about five months and is hoping to collect the remaining about $7,000 needed in time to install the statue for Memorial Day 2016, said Kimberly Babin, director of veterans services for the city.

The effort started a year ago with the idea of adding a memorial for those killed in the two wars in the Chicopee Veterans’ Plaza where there are already statues for Chicopee veterans of the Civil War through the Vietnam War.

With 16 people from Western Massachusetts killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the group decided to create a memorial that included the men from all surrounding towns.

“Eastern Massachusetts has a memorial, we thought this one could be for Western Massachusetts,” Babin said.

The seven-member committee has representatives from a variety of communities. Along with sending out letters to businesses, it has also held fund-raising events such as spaghetti suppers, she said.

There are veterans who were killed in action from 11 different Western Massachusetts communities, including four from Chicopee and two each from Pittsfield and Springfield.

“I said if all of us raised $1,000 we would have the money we need,” she said.

Letters have been mailed to local businesses asking for donations and organizations, including Tom Kielbania, organizer of the Kielbasa Festival, the Kevin Dupont Memorial Foundation and several veterans groups have already given to the cause, she said.

All donations, no matter how small, are greatly appreciated, Babin said.

Because there is limited space on the Veterans Plaza for another memorial, the initial plan was to redesign the plaza, add some benches for reflection and improve the landscaping. However that grew too expensive and complicated so the committee decided it will move several flag poles to a different location and place the new monument there.

Babin said she is working with the Parks and Recreation Department Director and they are hoping to apply for some grants so the plaza can eventually be improved.



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