Polish Legion seeks funds to create veterans memorial on Pulaski Highway

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    PINE ISLAND-An unsightly building on Pulaski Highway in Pine Island is to be replaced with a memorial to local veterans who died in past wars. The Polish Legion of American Veterans, Post 16, has purchased a former telephone switching station building at the corner of Legion Road and Pulaski Highway. The organization plans to demolish the small brick structure and erect a veterans' memorial. According to Commander Wayne Miller, the post will have to raise about $30,000, including the $18,000 purchase price for the building. The post is also seeking interested community members to help design the memorial. Miller said he has found in his work that brainstorming is effective, and he'd like community members to participate. "We're willing to sit and listen to anyone who has ideas," he said. Post members initially planned to build a memorial close to the Legion's building on Legion Road, but found that the available site was under wires that could interfere with flagpoles. They decided to buy the former telephone switching building to place the monument in a more visible location, at the corner of Legion Road and Pulaski Highway. The old building is also a visual hazard, blocking the view for people leaving the legion grounds. In just a month of fund raising, the organization has received $5,000, said Senior Vice-Commander Fred Pason, who is spearheading the effort. He has received support from people as far from Pine Island as Montgomery, he said. A local contractor, Rich Majewski of Allied Excavating, has agreed to demolish the building at no cost to the post, Miller said. Members of the post also have contacted U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly, Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt and state Sen. William J. Larkin Jr., seeking federal or state money to help construction. The post will seek help through an Orange County fund established to help veterans' organizations with their projects, he added. Pason has drafted a letter to send to potential donors. "This memorial will serve as a reminder that America owes its freedom to those who served," he notes. "As President Lincoln said in his famous speech at Gettysburg, ‘these dead shall not have died in vain.'" The memorial is designed to honor all veterans, not just those of Polish descent. Indeed, the organization, which turns 75 next year, has been open to all veterans since the mid-1980s, Pason explained. That's when P.L.A.V. received a federal charter, which includes a non-discrimination clause. Until then, the organization was open to veterans of Polish descent or those married to persons of Polish descent. Pason's ancestors are Polish. Miller's wife is of Polish descent. However, Miller said, the post includes members with no Polish background. Several preliminary sketches show a granite monument in front of a brick wall with three flagpoles. However, the final design has not been determined. "I always carry a camera, and when I see any veterans' memorial, I take a picture," Pason said. Donations may be sent to Fred Pason, 48 Pierce Circle, New Hampton, N.Y. 10958.