Making a memorial park for everybody

| 29 Sep 2011 | 07:59

    MATAMORAS - They’re making something pure for the nation organizers said of the veterans’ monument park. When the a travelling version of the Washington Mall’s Vietnam Memorial made a stop in Matamoras in 1998, it made big impression on folks in the borough. State and federal officials and regular people came by the hundreds to the far corner of Airport Park to view names on the mobile monument. “People were moved,” said Matamoras Mayor Richard Gassman, to the point that some of the veterans came to him about putting up stone to commemorate the wall’s visit. The Vietnam Veterans of America put up $30,000 for the memorial and Kevin Stroyan of Milford was commissioned to do the work. They had picked a pretty spot, within earshot of the river, almost opposite the Tri-States Rock, where the three states meet. The results pleased everyone to the point where the veterans again suggested that “something more comprehensive be done,” Gassman recalled. It would be something including all the different wars, not soldiers’ names, but commemoratives of those wars, each with carved maps and notations on major battles, “to make a history lesson out of it,” he said. And so the Veterans’ Memorial Park and Education Center was born. The Delaware Valley School District set aside an acre off the edge of the adjoining playing fields, and a retaining wall was built to separate and buffer the memorial. With a park designed for memorials in the works, a decision was soon made to move the existing Matamoras-Westfall war memorial stone from the site of former elementary school. Stroyan was involved again and found himself becoming attached to the project. “I first got involved almost by accident, I was a contractor, but I saw what they were doing for the vets and education, with no money really, and the next thing you know I’m a trustee.” Stroyan has since donated the labor, essentially providing the monument stones at cost,” Gassman said. “He’s thrown himself into wholeheartedly,” Gassman said of Stroyan. “They’ve been a great group of people to work with,” said Stroyan. And these are two men, who on most past occasions, have had little to agree upon. Gassman is past county Democratic Party Chairman “and I’m a reasonably good vote getter on the Republican side,” Stroyan said. “But this project,” Stroyan added, “completely crosses all those lines. In communities where parochial interests sometimes flourish, the park is something else altogether. Gassman said the borough’s name was initially attached to the park, but was quickly removed because “It’s not a Matamoras, or Pike, or Pennsylvania project, it’s a U.S.A project,” He said veterans organizations from around the region have been active in the project. Stroyan agreed. “We’ve had help from all over. Bob Gallagher, from Shohola, Gene Goldner, from Dingman, to name a few. It’s a regional thing,” without gain or personal interest. “There are few things you get involved in life where intentions are pure. But here, the vets, scouts, the school, the kids in the band, the intentions are pure all the way around.” “Patriotism is very important. We want to allow young people to know and honor those who have been involved...It’s more important to me than money,” Stroyan said. The park is admittedly still a work in progress, with landscaping, audio visitor guides, a planned 400’ mural and a visitor center still to be completed, but it has already provided some of that same “wall” feeling again. Gassman said “I was here one day when an older veteran and a family member were looking over the World War II monument. He looked and pointed and said ‘I fought in that battle, right there,’” “That was nice,” Gassman recalled. The Veteran’s Park Society will have its annual membership meeting Jan. 22, at 2 pm in Matamoras Borough Hall and the public is welcome. After the business meeting Stroyan will report on progress and talk about future plans for the Park.