Salem remembers native son at roundabout
Salem — Richard and Sharon Hamill stood in the center of the town's new roundabout Wednesday looking up at the U.S. flag.
Richard Hamill had just raised the flag up the pole for the first time, in honor of their son, Army Capt. Jason R. Hamill. A Salem native, the 31-year-old captain was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad in 2006.
"We've been thinking for a long time we'd like to do something to remember Jason, but we didn't quite know what, and we certainly didn't know how," Richard Hamill said.
"He'll always be here with us," First Selectman Kevin Lyden replied.
The $4 million project to construct a roundabout at Salem Four Corners to make the intersection safer is largely finished. The town placed a granite bench, which was engraved using private donations, near the roundabout in honor of Jason Hamill.
Bob Ross, the executive director of the state's Office of Military Affairs, suggested to Lyden that the Hamills raise the flag. Ross was the first selectman when the project was in the planning stages.
"The first time the flag goes up in the new gateway to town, it should be a special moment to someone," Ross said. "The only people I know in Salem who lost a son or daughter in either of the two wars is the Hamill family."
Ross, Lyden and his wife, Kathleen, and Les Avery, the contractor who donated his time to install the bench, attended the brief ceremony. The pole is lit at the base so that the flag does not have to be raised and lowered each day.
"Jason is, and always will be, a son of our town, a son we are very proud of," Lyden told the Hamills.
When the group passed by the bench, Sharon Hamill paused to run her fingers along the cross that is engraved between the date of Jason's birth and death. Jason Hamill would have celebrated his 38th birthday Jan. 5.
"Jason grew up here. They name streets after people, but I like the idea of a bench," Richard Hamill said.
"I'm glad that everyone is still thinking of him after six years," Sharon Hamill added.
Sharon Hamill said that if the town lets her, she wants to plant flowers by the bench. She still has a bush her sister gave her on the day of Jason's memorial service, and she said she'd like to transplant some of the flowers.
When asked what variety, she said, "The bleeding heart."