This Memorial Day weekend, stop by the , where a meticulously compiled tribute to local veterans will be on display. The Veteran's Memorial is the brainchild of Bronxville resident Jane Staunton, and is co-sponsored by The Bronxville Historical Conservancy.
We caught up with Staunton to discuss the memorial and her inspiration for it.
About Town: Where did you get the idea for the Bronxville Veteran's Memorial?
Jane Staunton: The idea came from a collaborative effort between myself and my neighbor, Cindi Callahan, in 2008. My goal was to put more of the "memorial" back into Memorial Day by first identifying our veterans through all the wars and then highlighting the individual and collective contributions they made to our country.
Our initial efforts focused primarily, but not exclusively, on the World War II veterans as this generation was quickly passing. By some stats, 1,000 U.S. WWII veterans die each day. It was important to give them this long overdue recognition but also to make sure their stories got passed down to the younger generations. At the time we started this, we had no idea how big the outpouring and sharing of personal information would be. Today the exhibit includes all the wars from the Civil to Iraq and Afghanistan.
AT: How was the Scroll of Honor, a list of names of local veterans,—researched? How far back does it date?
JS: The Scroll of Honor was basically started by an outreach to the community by word of mouth, email and local publicity. As the momentum built, veterans referred us to other veterans, family members and even neighbors came forth to share what information that they had. Today we have 1,564 names of men and women who have served or are serving in the U.S. armed forces that have resided in Bronxville—it spans all wars with even a couple names from the Spanish War and the Civil War.
AT: How did you go about collecting photos and memorabilia from local residents?
JS: It was a real grassroots effort. These are very personal stories, letters, diaries and memorabilia that people so generously shared. In addition, we went into the local archives of the Village to reproduce photos from around the Village from WWI and WWII.
AT: Any particular favorites?
JS: One of my favorite items is a diary with drawings detailing one veteran's ordeal in a POW camp in that harsh winter of 1944-45. It details his eight months in the camp until the day General Patton's troop freed them, followed by his sail home when he first lays eyes on the Statue of Liberty again. It is an insightful look into the hearts and minds of generation that never took for granted the freedoms the U.S. afforded them. Another story, or fact I should say, that I find quite interesting is that during WWI, on a per capita basis, Bronxville raised the most money through the sale of war bonds than any other community in the U.S.—very impressive for our one square mile.
AT: We’re guessing that you’ve got some veterans in your family, as well.
JS: My uncles on both my mother and father's side all served in WWII. My father went to sign up for service but wasn't accepted due to his extremely poor eye sight; as a young girl, he told me it was one of the saddest days in his life not being able to serve his country.
You can see the Bronxville Veteran's Memorial exhibit this weekend in the auditorium of the Bronxville Elementary School. Bob Scott, of the Bronxville Historical Conservancy, tells us that the Memorial also includes “The Hero Next Door” exhibit, featuring a collection of personal stories of more than 70 Bronxville, Eastchester, and Tuckahoe men and women who died in the service of our country. The memorial stories have been assembled by Michael Fix of Eastchester, a local historian, Vietnam-era veteran, and one of the eight founders of Westover Air Force Base USO during Desert Storm/Desert Shield.