As the village prepares to celebrate the memory of one of its youngest war veterans this weekend, some of its oldest veterans marched down Main Street and on to Bay Street Tuesday morning, to a rock that juts up from the center of Marine Park. The rock, dragged into place in 1955 honors the men and women from Sag Harbor who served during World War II.
On Tuesday —Â Veteran’s Day —Â the community had the opportunity to come together and honor its long line of service men and women, many who made the ultimate sacrifice in wars stretching from the Revolution, to the recent conflict in Iraq. On Saturday, they will come together again to rename the bridge that connects Sag Harbor to North Haven after fallen Marine Jordan Hareter, who gave his life earlier this year in RAMADI to protect dozens of others.
But on Tuesday, the focus of attention was clearly on the 446 veterans of the last Great War, where 18 native sons from Sag Harbor never returned. For the first time, the slab of tan stone that stood in brilliant relief against the deep blues of the harbor waters and the November sky, bore a bronze plaque this year, listing all of the men and women from Sag Harbor, Noyac and North Haven who served in the war —Â a staggering amount for such a small community, probably about 10 percent of the population at the time.
“They had the draft board in Southampton in those days, and they left their boys alone and took all of ours,” joked John Ward, one of three members of the local American Legion who spent the past year-and-a-half painstakingly making lists to ensure all the vets were recognized on the plaque. Along with Ward were Robert Browngradt —Â whose brother, Arthur, was listed as having given his life —Â and George Boziwick, who noted during dedication ceremonies Tuesday morning, that many of those who survived are no longer aliveÂ or else in their eighties or nineties.
Boziwick gestured to the breakwater behind him on Tuesday morning and said the rock that held the plaque originally came from the New York subway system —Â by way of the breakwater.
It was Ward who first arranged for the big slab of rock to be pulled into place in 1955, ten years after the war finally ended. He was serving on the village’s board of trustees at the time and, in an interview this week, said he remembered seeing a slab on the breakwater one day which he thought would be perfect for a monument. He was motivated to erect the monument based on a story he remembers an uncle telling him about the World War I monument at Otter Pond. After that war, the community decided it wanted a monument for those who had served, and found a massive rock up on the property that is now Spring Farm off Stoney Hill. The rock was dragged into place on a sled pulled by two teams of horses, said Ward, and a bronze plaque mounted listing all the war’s veterans.
In 1955, the village had a rock monument to honor its World War II veterans, but could not afford a large enough plaque listing all the veterans, said Ward. There was a small plaque saying the monument was dedicated to all those who served, but it wasn’t until recently that Ward, Boziwick and Browngardt decided to tackle the job of collecting all the names of local World War II veterans for a new plaque. Ward said the roughly $10,000 needed to construct and mount the plaque was raised privately, through donations from businesses and individuals. The list itself also came from many different places.
There was no single record of all the veterans, Ward said, but there was a list of many, painted on wooden boards, as a sort of memorial in front of the lot where the former Alvin Silver Building had stood on Main Street. Plus there was a list at the firehouse of all the firefighters who had served, and Boziwick said on Tuesday morning they had also found lists at the Old Whalers Church and other places.
“We just pieced them together,” said Ward. “But every time we thought we had the list complete, someone else would come along with another name or two.”
They also relied on word of mouth, and veterans and their families talking the project up.
“Many names might never have made the list,” said Ward, who added that his own name might not have been included had he not been involved, since his name did not appear on any of the other lists of WW II veterans.
The monument is an important reminder, said Ward, of the sacrifices many small towns made during the war years.
“Everybody was involved in defense,” said Ward, who remembers working at the Bulova Watchcase factory, which had been re-tooled to manufacture telescope sights for the war effort.
Said Boziwick at the end of Tuesday’s dedication: “I would hope their children and grandchildren, if they’re living here, do take the time to visit this beautiful memorial and remember the sacrifice those wonderful relatives made to serve the United States of America in that conflict of World War II.”