• Duty, Honor, Country, And Our Commitment To Those Who Gave All.

    Screenshot, Town of Greenwich

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    By Don Sylvester

    As one who has many times set foot on Military cemetery ground, or stood before a servicemen’s statue or monument in its dedication or recognization of service and sacrifice, there are always these overwhelming feelings and emotions that arise within as I enter their space. This is their place; this is hollowed ground dedicated for them. And dedicated so their families, friends and strangers alike will themselves rest in peace. Knowing these grounds dedicated in entirety will flourish in perpetuity as that vision intended in its inception.

    Well, not so fast.

    It seems like the leaders and their back scratchers in the tony town of Greenwich, CT, do not share this same view. I have met their likes before. They love the recognization at Veteran ceremonies and are always eager to speak some prepared phrases about something they will never experience. But when you strip away all the phrase and pomp, you bare a soul which may reveal an entirely different animal lurking beneath. So is the case I speak.

    The “Eugene Morlot Veterans Memorial Park” in Greenwich may be small in area by definition, being just 13 1/2 acres. But significant in its historic and personal connection to whom and why it was dedicated decades ago. The Old Byram Elementary School sits on the highest crest of the property. Converted to public housing with its closure many years ago, the historically dedicated red brick and mortar building lends to the roots of the story of this park. As well as the kids whom came of age here in a time of frolic and fun.

    Eugene Morlot was not a veteran.

    As custodian at the school, Morlot was known and loved by everyone there. Town-wide he and his wife were known as town organizers with shows, carnivals, cookouts and sporting events for everyone. And the kids in that school were a part of Eugene, treated like his own kids.

    And then came the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    We were thrust into a true, by definition, World War that would effect every man, women and child here and abroad. And so with the first Byram School boy killed in combat, it was Eugene, as much the families, who bore the pain of losing him. And it was Eugene, along with the school principal, who planted the first tree in his memory.

    At the war's end, ten trees would be planted.

    Then came the Korean War and another Byram School causality. That was followed by Vietnam with two more. Thirteen in total. So now on a knoll stands this grove of mighty Oak and Sycamores. And as intended, looking out over every square foot of the ball fields and grounds those boys walked and spent their entire young years upon. A vision that has been locked forever into the future.

    Or so we thought.

    Two years ago we learned of a plan, several years in the making, to destroy this park. The town was secretly planning to relocate a Walmart-sized skating rink into its center. While they vehemently deny this and many other actions, records show the town gave architects authority to propose this building anywhere on the previously dedicated thirteen and one half acre parcel, all while publicly stating Eugene Morlot Park would not be disturbed. And using bully pulpit tactics to silence anyone who spoke up or complained.

    They continued this onslaught, even more brazen and ruthless, to crush opposition. They even went so far as to claim then First Selectmen Ruth Simms had not dedicated the Park properly and that now, decades later, they would do it right. And do it right they did, splitting off the half-acre Tree Grove and seizing the rest of the 13-acre parkland for themselves.

    Those trees now branch out shading and protecting park users and the like watching a ball game. Or maybe just someone taking a quiet movement of serenity gazing into the grove or out across the grassy expanse of the ball fields into a distant tree line. And just maybe seeing and feeling what those boys had seen and felt from that very spot. A place forever frozen in time. I see the branches of those trees as giant arms reaching out and still protecting us, as the boys bravely did long ago. So I ask you. Who will now protect them when they need protection? Who will be their voice as they can no longer speak?

    I will tell you. It is you, it is me, and it is who comes after us.

    And God help us if we fail.

    Don Sylvester is a Vietnam Veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has volunteered for the VFW State of Connecticut Honor Guard as well as National Drill Team champions more than twenty times, representing the National VFW in ceremonies through the country.

    Screenshot, Facebook.

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