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Groton - Workers used a crane to install a new granite monument Monday at Groton Veterans Memorial Park - between the senior center and Groton Public Library - to recognize veterans who have served in conflicts or wars in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's nice to be a part of it, because these guys gave their lives," said Marty Clark, who ran the crane that lifted the 2,000-pound base and 6,000-pound granite stone into the park.
A local committee, led by former Groton Town Councilor James Streeter, raised nearly $23,000 to expand and care for the park. The monument cost about $12,000. The committee's goal is $25,000, and it plans to extend the sidewalk forward to the second circular island between the library and senior center, wrap the sidewalk around the island, then install a flagpole and flag to represent each branch of the military. The town would donate sidewalk work, and the committee would pay for the flagpoles, flags and park upkeep, said Matthew Morton, a committee member, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and retired Groton town police captain.
The committee is also selling commemorative bricks to line the sidewalk, with each brick listing a veteran's name, branch of service, highest rank and years or war served.
"We want to make the park as complete as possible," said Morton, who bought one brick for himself and one for his brother, Mark Morton.
Mark Morton served with the Marines in Vietnam, made it home, then died four days after his 21st birthday in a car accident caused by a drunken driver, his brother said.
Pete D.G. Gunn of Groton stopped at the memorial Monday to pay his respects as he often does, between eating lunch at the senior center and stopping at the library.
His cousin, Jerry Spradlin, died in Vietnam one week before his 21st birthday, said Gunn, a member of U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc.
"I'm glad we're doing this," he said of the park expansion. "But Groton always does things like this. It's a first-class (town)."
As the crew finished work, Terence P. Dominick scrubbed the new stone, using water and a brush. Dominick, of Dominick & Sons Monument Works Inc., said his father was a U.S. Navy veteran who served during World War II.
"I never had the honor to serve our country," said Dominick, who belongs to the Sons of the American Legion in Colchester and commands a squadron.
"As bad as things are with this country, with the economy, I still love this country," he said. "I might not go along with the politics, but I still believe in the flag."