With beer and donations, veterans to build Connecticut’s first memorial for Iraq, Afghanistan vets
New Haven Register August 14, 2022
DANBURY, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — Veteran David Vieira’s dream of building a memorial for Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans is getting closer to reality.
Veterans have begun raising money for the monument, which would be constructed at the War Memorial site in Danbury, and have enlisted the help of a Branford brewery to use its beer-making skills to contribute to the effort. A rendering of what the monument will look like has been produced.
“I feel we were able to create an honorable representation of the sacrifices so many made over the 20 years of war,” said Vieira, senior vice commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 149 and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. “It is even better than what our team imagined when we drew the first design on the back of a napkin a couple of years ago.”
He and other veterans formed the Connecticut Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans War Memorial Committee in May to pursue the effort with the biggest obstacle being fundraising. This would be the state’s first memorial honoring these veterans, and the earliest any federal monument would be considered for D.C. is 2031 due to federal statutes.
Since then, the original estimated cost of $200,000 to build the memorial has risen to $250,000. A fundraising site has gone live to collect donations. Close to $4,000 has been raised so far.
“But through the fundraising site, partnership with Stony Creek Brewery, support from the City of Danbury and local businesses and residents we will meet our goal,” said Vieira, a New Milford resident.
Stony Creek Brewery in Branford has created a new beer with a portion of the sales going toward the effort to build the monument. Fellow veteran Steve Boucino and the Brewers Guild of Connecticut helped the team secure a meeting with the brewery’s team.
“They have both been incredible and behind our idea from day one,” Vieira said. “They are able to see the vision and story behind the monument and wanted to get involved. So, we partnered with Stony Creek Brewery for a beer that we worked with them to create and brand called AO Lager.”
Vieira explained that AO stands for Area of Operations. It’s a familiar acronym for military veterans especially those who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We felt it connected veterans’ experiences to the beer in a familiar way and encompasses both Afghanistan and Iraq,” Vieira said. “I think the logo design is going to make veterans feel even more connected to the project.”
Vieira wants the beer to be an everyday beer for dinner at home, for a night out with friends or for a family barbecue.
“In my heart I hope, for every veteran, that they have a chance to find a group of veterans like I did to share an AO Lager with,” Vieira said. “A chance to find a group to reconnect with, to share their stories with and find that camaraderie so many of us lose when our time in the military ends.”
Stony Creek will donate a portion of the sale of each pint at the brewery and each keg and case purchased at restaurants, bars and package stores across the state to the monument project. The beer will be available statewide after Labor Day and there will be a launch event in November.
Outside of the partnership with Stony Creek, the veterans have started sending out information and donation request letters to state businesses and organizations, begun to produce merchandise to sell, have a Friday barbecue each week, and are planning multiple fundraising events.
Another important step has been to finalize the official rendering of the monument.
“The monument includes both the maps of Afghanistan and Iraq and will include stars indicating the main operating bases of both conflicts,” Vieira said.
In between the maps are the World Trade Center towers, which honors the tragedy of 9/11 and the catalyst for the wars. There will be some additional engraving, lighting and landscaping at the installation.
Vieira has an “ambitious goal” of a dedication day for the war memorial on Veterans Day 2023.
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