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Vets memorial proving a bit tricky

NIAGARA FALLS -- A commission charged with creating a veterans memorial had a grand plan to create a model of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when it announced a year ago the new city monument would be located in Hyde Park.

The group has since decided to add two more elements -- a replica of the Iwo Jima memorial and a small bridge to connect the two monuments.

Commission members have also scaled back the time line for completing the memorial.

"We didn't realize the magnitude of this project," said Dave A. Fabrizio, chairman of the Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial Commission. "We were kind of naive."

The commission, which received $7,000 from the city last year, has hired the Buffalo architectural firm Wendel Duchscherer to develop a master plan for building the memorial.

That master plan can then be used to begin fundraising and applying for grants.

Fabrizio said commission members first thought they could have the monument completed by June. Now, they know they will just be starting a fundraising drive by then.

"It's been a long process," Fabrizio said. "Much longer than we anticipated."

Fabrizio said the group will not be able to estimate the cost of the monument until the master plan has been completed.

The veterans commission formed in late 2007 after the City Council refused to rename two streets in honor of two soldiers killed in Iraq. Instead, city leaders asked local veterans to form a group that would be charged with creating a memorial to honor all of the city's residents who had served in the military.

Falls veterans for years have used Cenotaph Park at Main Street and Pine Avenue as the site of Veterans Day and other events. That park has a marker honoring Lt. Col. Matt L. Urban, a Buffalo native who is considered by supporters as the most decorated war hero of World War II, as well as a tribute to several Falls residents who earned medals. But Councilman Robert Anderson Jr., who spent 22 years in the Air Force, and other city leaders want a citywide memorial that honors all veterans.

"If we didn't start this thing, who knows, it would never have been done," Anderson said. "This will affect every single family in this city."

Fabrizio said the veterans commission chose to replicate the Iwo Jima memorial because the battle included members from all branches of the military.

The Iwo Jima memorial, located in Arlington, Va., includes the inscription on its base, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue."

"Every veteran, and especially those who gave their lives from the City of Niagara Falls in defense of this country, deserve to be memorialized by that monument," Fabrizio said.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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