Soldier's parents seek permanent replacement memorial in NY town
Parents of an Army veteran who earned a Purple Heart in Afghanistan only to be fatally struck by a car in Smithtown, N.Y., are angry that his memorial has been removed and want a permanent marker put in its place.
"I think my son deserves some type of memorial in the Town of Smithtown," said Rose Marie Byrne, 63, of Kings Park. "I think his hometown should have something."
Byrne said friends and family erected a makeshift memorial to her son, Seamus Byrne of Kings Park, at Lawrence Road and Main Street in the Village of the Branch, where Byrne was killed in February 2011 after celebrating his 33rd birthday with friends and family.
Byrne said she and her husband were vacationing in Ireland around July or August when friends and family alerted them about the missing memorial, which included items such as pictures and a military hat he wore to receive his Purple Heart. A metal village sign has been put on a utility pole where the memorial items had been affixed, said Byrne.
On Tuesday, Byrne pleaded with the Smithtown Town Board for information. "We cannot get any answers from any governmental officials as to why or where the memorial has been removed to," she said. "All we ask is that his belongings be returned to his family," she said.
Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said Tuesday he was unaware of the memorial. He could not be reached late Wednesday about the town possibly erecting a something permanent.
Byrne said a friend put her in touch with Village of the Branch trustee Tom Newman, who she said acknowledged the village has at least some of the items, including photos, and invited her to pick them up today from Village Hall.
Attempts by Newsday to reach Newman and village Mayor Tom Keon were not successful. But Byrne said officials should have contacted the family before the memorial was removed.
The memorial included photos of Seamus Byrne with his wife and two children, along with military photos and the army cap he wore to receive a Purple Heart following his service in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard's Fighting 69th of New York and Long Island, where he was injured by a suicide bomber.
A memorial remains at the corner for Courtney Sipes, an 11-year-old girl who was also killed while crossing Main Street in 2009 by the driver of a vehicle who was high on heroin.
Rose Marie and Oliver Byrne changed the memorial seasonally, she said, always attaching an American flag. "I bless myself every time I pass this site," she said. "It was like coming to his grave site because this is where he was killed."