Vets plan to build better bridge [Bristol Observer]

January 4, 2013

Every year due to vandalism, according to the chairman of the Bristol Veterans Council, the Bristol Parks Department has to replace at least 100 spindles on the 16-year-old wooden bridge behind the Korean War Monument on Memorial Boulevard.

The Korean War Veterans Association, in conjunction with the Bristol Veterans Council, is in the middle of raising funds to replace that wooden bridge with a new metal one that will deter vandals and will remain in good condition.

“It’s deteriorating significantly,” Gamache said of the current bridge. He added that the new one, which is expected to cost over $10,000, will be rustproof and will be two inches wider so it will be easier for handicapped individuals and wheelchairs to access.

In addition to that, the Bristol Veterans Council is also planning to refurbish the World War II monument and the Vietnam War monument. Algae will be removed from both monuments and the brass plaque on the World War II monument also will be cleaned up.

Every year, Korean War veteran Bob Barnett, who is involved in many projects relating to the veterans’ community, said a new project always comes up for the veterans’ groups to tackle. This includes the flags that are placed on graves of Bristol veterans— about 200 new ones every year. He said the Bristol community always steps up to the plate to help the veterans’ groups with their projects.

“We’re very lucky in Bristol,” Barnett said. “The community responds.”

Gamache agreed, and said anytime the veterans let the community know the need is there, it steps forward and helps.

The bridge is located on the south side of Memorial Boulevard, which is the memorial side of the park. It provides access for pedestrians from the South Street parking lot. The commemorative side of Memorial Boulevard is the north side, which is closest to Riverside Avenue.

All of these projects are expected to be completed by Memorial Day. The two monuments will be cleaned up, the new bridge will be up, and the new benches, which will be placed at the World War II and Vietnam War monuments, are expected to be ready for Memorial Day.

One of the biggest events the veterans council puts on every year is its “Salute Dinner” for recent high school graduates who are entering the military. In addition to that, the flags placed on graves of veterans is an ongoing project that the council and Korean War Veterans Association take on. High school and middle school students in the city always help the veterans place new flags on graves, which pleases Gamache since veterans won’t be around forever.

For Jim Bousquet, a veteran, he said one of the most gratifying things he has seen is that other towns in Connecticut taken on the flag project.

“I think Bristol was one of the first towns to place flags on graves,” Bousquet said. “It is nice to see other communities doing the same.”

Barnett said he noticed that when the Korean War veterans came home it took them about 40 years to all come together and reunite. He said he is seeing that now with the Vietnam veterans, which he is happy to see.

To make donations to the Bristol Veterans Council and Korean War Association project send checks to Bristol Veterans Council, P.O. Box 2634, Bristol, CT., 06011.