Memorials honoring fallen Vt. soldiers to get improved replacements

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 4:27 PM EDT
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Seven memorials honoring fallen heroes were taken out of Vermont information centers along Interstate 89 in 2019. It was done without telling the families of the fallen or the man who created the displays.

Two years later, there are plans to put new and improved memorials in their place.

The portraits are being taken down but they are being replaced with new displays of more than 40 veterans who lost their lives during the war on terror. The installations will be similar to the ones taken out in 2019 but will come with a high-tech update.

Marion Gray lost her stepson Sgt. Jamie Gray in 2004. He was one of 42 soldiers on memorials spread all over the state until they were removed in 2019. Marion Gray-- and many others-- were not told about their removal.

“Appalled is what comes to mind... devastated,” she said. “I asked why and the comment was made that it was time... enough time had passed.”

After COVID put a pause on the project, the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services partnered with the Office of Veterans Affairs to replace them.

Jennifer Fitch, the commissioner of Buildings and General Services, says the portraits came down because of wear and tear.

“In addition to that, what’s new and improved-- they’ll have a QR Code on them. That QR Code-- you can scan and actually get a history of the soldiers right there, which is so cool,” Fitch said.

The previous display was only in seven locations. This time it will be in eight.

“There’s a couple of photos we need to get for higher resolution. Then there’s just a confirmation of first and last names, some had nicknames, then a verification of ranks,” said Robert Burke, the director of the Office of Veterans Affairs in Vermont.

Marion Gray says it’s encouraging to see the displays going back up with the improvements.

“There’s no do-overs. There’s no bringing them back. They’re gone and the only thing we have to hang onto is to know people care and are interested and know who those boys were,” Gray said.

While the information for each of the soldiers is finalized, Buildings and General Services is working to put up the foundations of the displays.

Fitch says getting the information should be done in the next few weeks, so it shouldn’t be long until the memorials are complete.

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