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North Collins almost to its goal for veterans tribute

It's an ambitious project for a town with 3,500 residents: A veterans tribute with 15,000 bricks that eventually will contain the names of veterans from North Collins and other locations.

The 100-square-foot star will lie flat on the ground, and the flag of each branch of service will be a point of the star. The United States flag and the POW/MIA flag also will be there. In the middle of the star will be raised black polished granite "V" with outstretched hands and an eternal flame.

The tribute will be built in the town's Marion Fricano Park along Route 62, which was renamed National Veterans Highway in 2011.

The budget is $100,000, and more than half the money or in-kind services has been raised. But another fundraiser, a spaghetti dinner, will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday in the North Collins Senior Center on Route 62. The Pin Ups for a Cause – a group that helps with fundraising – will be there, and there will be raffle drawings and raffle tickets for a Harley jacket, a signed NASCAR jacket and more, according to organizers.

The group also will be selling the bricks that will engraved with veterans names, years of service, branch and insignia. The link to order bricks is on the Town of North Collins website. The push is on now to order bricks so they will be ready for the planned dedication on Veterans Day in November.

The project started more than three years ago, when the issue came up at a Town Board meeting, said Ann Converso, a member of the committee. It was the dream of resident James Lint, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era and who helped organize the committee and designed the tribute.

The 12-member board of directors includes seven veterans and one Gold Star mother.

The committee formed a nonprofit organization and started raising money. At last count, they had raised $80,000 in donations and donated equipment and services. The mission of the tribute is "to have a peaceful site to recognize and honor those who served, and those who continue to serve this great nation which promotes freedom and democracy."

"For a small community like North Collins, that's a lot of money," Converso said.

The names on the bricks do not have to be from North Collins, and already people in several different states have bought bricks, she said.

"This is not for us, this is for veterans in perpetuity," she said.

There will be a walkway from the parking lot with engraved bricks noting the companies, businesses, unions and organizations that have donated goods or services.

"We're going to build it this year and we're going to have the dedication on Veterans Day," Converso said. "We are going to make this happen."

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