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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Troops’ memorial visits city

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief
— At Wednesday’s unveiling of the state’s traveling memorial, “Faces of Connecticut’s Fallen,” the father of slain Marine Cpl. Jordan C. Pierson called his son his hero.
One year ago, Eric Pierson of Milford was in Arlington, Va., to celebrate the Iraqi peoples’ Liberation Day anniversary when he met a man from Colorado whose son, a Navy SEAL, was killed when his helicopter was shot down.
Pierson recalled how the man described his son.
“My son is my hero,” Pierson remembered the man saying. “I’ve been saying something close to that … but Jordan Pierson is my hero.”
Pierson, along with his wife, Beverly, and their son, Nathan, were among about 75 people who came out for the unveiling of the Department of Veterans Affairs-sponsored traveling memorial. The memorial depicts the faces of the 42 Connecticut troops killed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jordan Pierson, 21, a 2003 Joseph A. Foran High School graduate and University of Connecticut student, was killed Aug. 25, 2006, by a sniper in Fallujah, Iraq.
Eric Pierson recalled another story that he says demonstrates soldiers’ compassion in the face of the brutality of war.
Marines were out late one night looking for an insurgent’s home when they spotted something they thought was a rat, but was instead a “cat with a big head.”
The cat was in poor health and covered in fleas. The Marines carried it back to base. Their superiors told them it was their responsibility to take care of the cat, so they removed the fleas one by one and fed the cat a can of tuna daily.
“They made a difference in this world. One person, one cat, one day at a time,” Pierson said.
The memorial features a video tribute to each of Connecticut’s fallen servicemen and women, which includes a photo of each person, his or her rank, military branch, date of death and country of death.
The memorial will be on display in the foyer of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Parsons Government Center for 90 days. It will be available for public viewing from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, and on weekends when activities occur.
Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. welcomed everyone in attendance and said how “honored and privileged” the city is to host the tribute.
“At ceremonies like this, how we wish we didn’t have to have these types of ceremonies,” Richetelli said.
He said no matter what people’s opinions on the war are, everyone stands behind the men and women fighting for their country.
Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Linda S. Schwartz said the idea for the tribute was born after she and Gov. M. Jodi Rell placed a wreath in the state Capitol to commemorate those who died in combat.
Schwartz recalled when Jordan Pierson, who was then in Iraq, sent her an e-mail saying the state’s veteran affairs Web site was “just for the old guys,” and asked what could she do for the younger soldiers.
“I said, ‘I looked at our Web site and you are right,’” Schwartz recalled.
Jordan Pierson told her via e-mail that he wanted to go to college and buy a house. After his tour, he hoped to visit Schwartz.
He died two months later in combat.
“Jordan challenged me to be of service to the men and women coming home today,” Schwartz said. “There is not a day where someone doesn’t benefit from his challenge to me, and that is his legacy.”
Joseph Della Monica Sr., whose son Joseph Jr. has served two stints in the armed forces, said the dedication ceremony was touching.
“It was a tear-jerker for me,” Della Monica said. “It’s a tribute to the men and women who gave their life for their country.”


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