Donations from community will guarantee placement
While his great grandfather served the country in World War II, his grandfather served in the Vietnam War and his father served in the Cold War, 16 year-old Life Scout John Benson III plans to memorialize those who came after those conflicts with a new war memorial stone at Bellmore’s Veterans Memorial Park in Bellmore Village as part of his Eagle Scout Project.
This grassy patch adjacent to two shrubs will be home to a new monument
As a Life Scout with Troop 192 at the Bellmore Presbyterian Church, John, a sophomore at Mepham High School now taking an AP course that keeps him studying all week when not involved in troop activity with Scout leader Richard Czarnecki, joined his dad at the memorial park to speak with Your NewsMag and show precisely where the new stone will be placed.
Presently, stone memorials stand tall to remember those that sacrificed their lives in World War II, in the Korean War and in the Vietnamese conflict. Yet one stone remains unveiled, John said: a stone to remember and honor those who toiled and sacrificed in the Cold War, in Desert Storm, and in the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts.
COLD WAR HEIGHTENED TENSIONS
Desert Storm, and the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts are clearly fresh in the minds of many Americans, as they came into our homes through the television nightly. But little is understood of the Cold War, a war that was waged to protect our country from the Soviet Union, now Russia.
“I joined the military when I was 17, had my training and was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska,” remarked John Benson Jr., John’s father, who was in the Cold War. A cold, hard fact, “Our job was to protect the country from a nuclear invasion from the Soviet Union over northern Canada,” he continued.
He trained in the bleakness of the frigid Bering Sea, near the top of the world. A skin tattoo on his arm bears the insignia of an Arctic Warrior. “The Soviet Union got the nuclear bomb, had become Communist” and thought it could take over the world, said Benson Jr. Begun in 1945, the Cold War ended in 1991, with the demolition of the Berlin Wall.
Benson Jr. told Your NewsMag he has been in scouting since before 12 years old, but never got a chance to become an Eagle Scout because he joined the military.
His son John developed the idea of a memorial stone while having heard stories from his father and of his forefathers. Once John was sure of his vision, he approached Scout Leader Czarnecki to develop plans and proposals. The plans, in turn, went to the church Scout committees, which gave their support. He went next to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2770 on Bedford Avenue, where he garnered their support as well.
John also approached and met with Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, who told Your NewMag in an email that “We are so fortunate in the Town of Hempstead to have devoted Boy Scouts like John Benson.”
She said his Eagle Scout project would clearly enhance the Memorial Park in Bellmore with a new stone in memory of those troops who fought in the Iraq War, Afghanistan, the Cold war and Desert Storm. “I look forward to the completion of this beautiful tribute that will honor the legacy of our soldiers for generations to come,” she said.
John also approached a little known outfit called the Patriot Guard Riders, a band of brothers who volunteer their time to escort fallen soldiers to their interments in cemeteries. They gladly threw their support behind John III.
“There are a lot of vets that have been looking for a memorial” to commemorate their sacrifices, especially on Memorial and Veterans Days, Scout Master Czarnecki remarked. “They are proud of the work he is doing on their behalf,” he said, along with the Scout troop.
RULES OF FUNDRAISING ENGAGEMENT
Rules of engagement to develop and place a new war memorial at the park include fundraising, in which there can be no raffles or games of chance; and items sold, such as T-shirts, which have to be sold for that reason alone – to raise funds for the stone. Bake sales are planned, as are fundraising stations at supermarkets and other locations around Bellmore.
“We need to raise $5500,” said John. The fundraising is off to a good start, he said, as a go fund me page at www.gofundme.com/2df53cak has already raised several hundred dollars.
The deadline for fundraising will be the end of August, at which time production of the stone will be put in motion. “We already have a stonecutter, and have a textile manufacturer in Bellmore to supply T-shirts with special lettering on them” to sell, said John. Perennial flowers will be placed within a small boxed garden, to accentuate the stone.
The plan is to unveil the new war memorial stone roughly one week before Memorial Day, Monday, May 29. “I want to introduce and place the stone into the park before Memorial Day, so that it will be there when veterans march on the park on Memorial Day,” John concluded.
For information or to donate, call 732-740-9036.