NEW BRITAIN - Many former service members at the TGM Northwest Vets Post are veterans from the Vietnam era, and most remember returning to the states where they said they didn’t feel respected or appreciated.
“I’m a Vietnam War veteran. When I came home, I did not feel welcome,” said Dennis Taricani, alongside committee members Angelo D’Alfonso, Bill Flynn and John Russo after a recent meeting. “I also did not feel part of the community.”
After holding a dance last October and raising funds for veterans causes, Taricani and the committee decided to pursue the idea of building a monument in the city as a way to prevent other, more recent vets from experiencing that neglect.
“I was just thinking a monument to honor these young men and women who are returning from war makes them feel better about themselves about their community, because the community is honoring them,” Taricani said.
With a fundraising goal of $50,000, the committee, which also includes other veterans, two active servicemen from the Connecticut National Guard, Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce President Tim Stewart and Paul Salina, chief operations officer for the New Britain School District, has raised $3,000 so far.
On Friday, May 19, the group will host a pasta dinner at the New Britain VFW, 41 Veterans Drive, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in an effort to raise more funds and bring attention to their goal.
An admission price of $15 will get patrons pasta with white clam or marinara sauce with meat, and garlic bread, salad, soda, coffee and cake. Children under 12 can enter for free.
Mayor Erin Stewart is slated to speak, and JROTC cadets from New Britain High School will be serving the food and presenting the colors.
A 50/50 raffle will also be held, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to the winner and the other half going to TGM Northwest Vets.
“No matter how long it takes to create the funds to for this monument, it will be a lasting tribute to not necessarily just New Britain residents, but to all who have dedicated their time and service to the cause,” said D’Alfonso. “Are we far off from our goal? Sure. But we’ll get there in time. New Britain has always been a community that has stepped up in support of our men and women who served.”
Placement of the memorial in Central Park would be ideal, said Flynn, but the committee hasn’t settled on a location. The TGM Northwest Vets already have a memorial on Smith Street, added Flynn, but desires a more central location, if possible.
While Ann Targonski Brown, who works at the New Britain Memorial Funeral Home, is providing advice, the committee isn’t firm on a design, outside of wanting it to blend with other nearby memorials.
“Where not trying to out-do anybody,” said Russo.
“We’re obviously in favor of recognizing our veterans,” said Erik Barbieri, the city’s director of parks, recreation and community services. The department oversees the Veterans Commission, from which the committee will have to get approval from before the Common Council can consider the idea.
Barbieri added that the TGM Northwest Vets would have to provide the funding in order for the memorial to be installed.
“Anything is feasible with permission,” he said.
According to the state’s website, New Britain is home to 25 veterans memorials.
“What some of us went through, coming home to what we found, is not what I want to see these men and women (find), now regardless of what their rank and stature within the military,” D’Alfosno said.
In addition to the pasta dinner, the committee is planning another fundraiser in October.
The TGM Northwest Veterans post, a former New Britain fire station and sports hall, was formed to honor three New Britain servicemen who died in trench warfare during World War II.
The initials of the three men’s last names - Stanley T. Todzia, Edward J. Giamonti and Francis J. Majewski - form TGM.
Tickets for the dinner can be purchased by calling the TGM Post, at 140 Curtis St., at 860-223-4919, Russo at 860-919-9057 or Flynn at 860-539-7547.
Taricani can be reached at 860-729-5538 for more information on how to contribute to the committee. Donation checks should be made out to “TGM Northwest Monument Fund.”
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.