The Wall of Remembrance, a traveling memorial to the victims of the ‘Global War on Terror,’ arrived in West Hartford on Thursday morning.
By Ronni Newton
An escort of 75 motorcycles, most ridden by veterans, proceeded up South Main Street Thursday morning, escorting the “Global War on Terror Wall of Remembrance” which will be on display on the grounds of West Hartford Town Hall through Sunday, Aug, 28. West Hartford police also provided escort, and the West Hartford Fire Department created a flag arch on South Main Street to honor the procession.
The Wall of Remembrance typically travels in a customized truck, but that vehicle reportedly broke down in Tennessee, where the memorial was last displayed. A Penske truck was rented so that the visit to West Hartford could still be made.
One side of the 116-foot long, 6 1/2-foot high traveling memorial has nearly 11,000 names of all those who have died in the “Global War on Terror,” beginning with the victims of the U.S. Embassy attack in Beirut in 1983 through present day. Victims of 9/11 from the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and hijacked flights are also memorialized. The other side of the memorial is a full-color educational timeline detailing events.
The name of Lawrence J. Philippon, the son of West Hartford residents Leesa and Ray Philippon, is among those inscribed on the memorial. U.S. Marine LCpl Larry Philippon, a 2001 Conard High School graduate and star hockey and lacrosse player, died at age 22 in Iraq on May 8, 2005.
“Ray and I were asked to be on the committee,” Leesa said. They worked with the Bixlers, a Gold Star family from Suffield, helping raise funds to bring the Wall of Remembrance to West Hartford. Leesa is very grateful to those who donated, including significant support received from the Sinatro family in honor of their patriarch Pat Sinatro, a U.S. Air Force veteran who died in May 2015.
“The whole town has been so supportive,” Leesa said. Police, fire, and public works have all made it possible, she said.
West Hartford resident Ryan Shea, a fellow Marine and who was also Larry Philippon’s lacrosse buddy at Conard, was one of the Wall of Remembrance escorts. “It’s unfortunate that several of my friends are on there,” he said. Having a a memorial like the wall, he said, “will help us to never forget.”
Ryan Brehm, also a West Hartford resident, was Larry Philippon’s roommate from the Marine color guard, was also one of the escorts. “It means a lot. It’s not just another thing to keep the memory alive,” he said of the memorial.
Brehm and Shea helped carry and erect the heavy slabs of the memorial at Town Hall. Names of victims are displayed chronologically, not alphabetically, and after a bit of searching they found Larry Philippon’s name near the center of the sixth panel. Shea ran his finger over it gently.
“These guys don’t just do it for the photo opportunities. They really mean it,” said Paul Shea, Ryan Shea’s father.
The Wall of Remembrance will be on display 24 hours a day through 3 p.m. on Sunday. An official ceremony will be held on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. Speakers will include Global War on Terror Wall of Remembrance Founder JR Nichols, U.S. Rep. John Larson, West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor, Webster Bank Senior Vice President and Town Council Minority Leader Denise B. Hall, CT Veterans Commissioner Sean Connelly, Asst. Police Chief Dan Coppinger, Fire Chief Gary Allen, Retired USMC First Sergeant Ben Grainger, and Gold Star family members Leesa and Raymond Philippon.
A candlelight vigil will be held on Saturday, Aug. 27 at 8 p.m., and the closing ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 28, at 1 p.m. For more details on the weekend’s activities, click here.
The Global War on Terror Wall of Remembrance was founded by the non-profit organization Rear Area Support Foundation Inc. (RASF) and the Connecticut Friends of Veterans, Inc. supported its visit to West Hartford.
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