December 10, 2013

Sen. Witkos, Sen. Blumenthal, Congresswoman Esty, Rep. Hampton and Simsbury first selectmen dedicate the Bataan Corregidor Memorial Bridge

Simsbury – State Senator Kevin Witkos (R-Canton), joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, State Representative John Hampton (D-Simsbury) and Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, dedicated the bridge on Route 185 in Simsbury as the “Bataan Corregidor Memorial Bridge” in honor of World War II servicemen who fought in the Battle of Bataan and the Battle of Corregidor. Senator Witkos hosted the dedication ceremony on Saturday, December 7 at Pichot Sycamore Park in Simsbury.

“Today is a special day,” Senator Witkos said at the dedication ceremony, which took place on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “It is a day to celebrate bravery, honor and service and to remember the people who gave their lives for our country.”

The state of Connecticut officially named the bridge the “Bataan Corregidor Memorial Bridge” in memory of those who fought in both battles and the survivors who were surrendered and forced into prisoner of war (POW) slave labor camps during World War II.

The naming and dedication of the bridge was inspired by Simsbury veteran Dan Crowley, who served in both Bataan and Corregidor and who endured nearly four years in POW slave labor camps. Crowley advocated for the bridge dedication as a memorial to the men who served alongside him. Senator Witkos proposed legislation for the naming of the bridge, which was passed in Public Act 13-277.

At the ceremony, Senator Blumenthal recognized the simplicity of the bridge as an important symbol.

“This bridge is vivid in its simplicity and elemental strength,” said Senator Blumenthal. “It’s not a grand structure, but like the men whose unimaginable courage we celebrate, it is there in its simple physical strength.

“This bridge will always be a memorial, in a sense a living memorial, because people use it every day and it lives as long as people ride over it and continue to think of the brave patriots who fought so gallantly at Bataan and Corregidor.”

Congresswoman Esty echoed Blumenthal’s sentiments: “It seems particularly appropriate to me that their service and sacrifice can be symbolized by this everyday ordinary bridge which connects one side to another side that allows people to go about their daily lives. Just in the way that our American Democracy – sometimes we take for granted, sometimes we don’t treasure it as much as we should, how vital and essential it is; but our ability to travel from one side of the river to the other, our ability to get up every day and make choices in our lives, was bought for and paid for by the service and sacrifice of men, and now women, in arms across the decades and to all of them a grateful nation says thank you,” she said.

Representative Hampton, who worked with Senator Witkos to co-sponsor the bill that made the dedication possible, also spoke at the ceremony.

“Our work doesn’t end today,” said Representative Hampton. “As we cross that bridge thousands upon thousands upon thousands of men and women across this country and across this world stand vigilant, stand guard to our system of government that is always in jeopardy. Freedom is not free. As we cross that bridge back and forth we have to think about ways that we will welcome home our veterans. We cannot stop welcoming home our veterans. We cannot stop saying thank you.”

First Selectwoman Mary Glassman thanked all parties who helped organize the event on behalf of the town of Simsbury. Along with the board of selectmen, including Deputy First Selectwoman Nancy Haase, Selectman Sean Askham, Selectwoman Lisa Heavner, Selectwoman Cheryl Cook and Selectman Mike Paine, Glassman welcomed the naming of the bridge in honor of resident Dan Crowley.

Dan Crowley, one of only two known living survivors of Bataan and Corregidor living in Connecticut, shared a brief account of his story at the ceremony.

“Shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked it was the Philippines turn,” said Crowley. “Holding off the massive terrorist attack, the starved, diseased and abandoned defenders held out, saving India and Australia from certain invasion. Surrendered by the United States of America, they now became POW slave laborers for 42 months. Almost one half were murdered by the time Japan surrendered in 1945.

“Today out of the approximately 30,000 Americans who served there…only about 50 American survivors are alive in the entire United States. That is why we dedicate this bridge. Preparedness is far less expensive than weakness which invites attack.”

The ceremony featured musical performances from Jim Martocchio on saxophone, John Zenisky on bugle, the Simsbury Light Opera Company and singers Steve Curylo, George Lewis, George Matt, Robert Scalla and Elaine Scott. Members of the U.S. Marine Corps, CT National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and Boy Scouts of America Troop 76 were also present for the ceremony and a blessing was performed by Father Michael Whyte of Saint Catherine of Siena.

The Yankee Clippers, formation flyer specialists, organized a four plane flyover during the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Crowley led the ribbon cutting along with Darrell Stark, a POW survivor from Stafford Springs, CT.

“Dan and Darrell endured unspeakable atrocities as POWs in the slave labor camps. But they were resilient. They were survivors,” said Senator Witkos. “Today, Dan is still resilient and, as most of us know, very persistent. He had a vision to recognize and memorialize his fallen comrades, and today we are making his vision a reality.”

Also present at the event were countless veterans and family members, including Lt. Colonel Joseph D. Danao II, the grandson and nephew of Filipino service men who fought alongside Crowley and Stark.

More information about Dan Crowley and the battles of Bataan and Corregidor can be found on Senator Witkos’ website Crowley is the senator’s current “Veteran of the Month,” and his site features a bio and video interview with Crowley.

“By naming this bridge in honor of all those men who loved and fought for their country,” Senator Witkos said, “their memories, their mission and their legacy live on.”

Photos available: