Norwalk honors fallen troops with new Freedom Memorial at civic center

By Raul Samaniego

NORWALK – Under grey skies and moderate temperatures, hundreds of residents of Norwalk and surrounding areas, gathered at the new Freedom Memorial last Monday honoring every veterans who has served our country.

Taken from a design by artist Nan Butler-Beckstrom, the five large monoliths depicted local men and women who have served in the armed services dating back to the 1900s, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Panama, the Gulf War and the current War on Terror.

Each monolith represented one the five branches of the military: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and the Coast Guard.

With a color guard led by 8-year-old Mia Medina dressed in all red, the “Poppy Girl” from La Mirada stood at attention as the colors were presented on both sides of the monoliths.

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It wasn’t perfect, but neither were any of the individuals depicted on the faces of the monument.

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the visitors enjoyed the playing of the Star Spangled Banner performed by the All City Band, directed by Frank Hinojoz.

At the same time, there was a four-plane fly over in vintage WWII T6 aircraft.

Chair of the Art in Public Places commission, Joseph Yakovetic, stated that in 2012 he noticed the existing City Hall square had seen its better days.

After five years, the new monument replaced the old one along with ADA compliant upgrades to the walkway and rear façade of the City Civic Center.

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With that, all five council members took their place at each of the monoliths for the unveiling.

What came into view were five tall black laser-etched renditions that awed the audience.

With the newly-unveiled monument now as a backdrop, Norwalk Mayor Luigi Vernola introduced the keynote speaker, John Kelsall.

Kelsall and his wife Teri started the Jonas Project, an organization for veteran business owners, after their son, Navy Seals team member Lieutenant Commander Jonas B. Kelsall died in Afghanistan in 2011.

With the playing of “Taps” from All City Band member Sierra Villa Montez, the loud firing of 21 shots from the Honor Guard rang through the crowd.

At the conclusion of the event, the audience members were invited to come forward and review the monument for themselves.

Reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., visitors paraded by each monolith and stopped to contemplate what each one meant to them.