October 22, 2021

2 projects progress

Veterans memorials in Cortland undergo renovations

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Work has begun on two veterans’ memorial projects in Courthouse Park in Cortland. The goal was to finish the projects by 9/11, but Gary Napieracz, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 377, said that won’t happen.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Courthouse Park in Cortland had fallen into disrepair over the decades, but now it’s only a few weeks away from a whole new look.

Before work began, slabs of granite siding were loosely hanging on, the engraved names were beginning to fade and the propane torch hadn’t been used in years. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 377 spent several months fundraising for the $30,000 renovation project — construction that is expected to conclude shortly after the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

“We’re not going to reach our goal to be done by 9/11, unfortunately,” said Gary Napieracz, the president of the chapter. The monument and benches are likely to be finished in time, but the plaques and flag poles won’t be done.

Renovations include removing an elongated section of the memorial and adding an LED light to illuminate its flame, Napieracz said, “This week the torch will be cut and they’re working on picking what type of LED lighting they’ll use. They call it the Eternal Flame Memorial Dedicated to Vietnam Veterans.”

On Aug. 4, the original torch was dismantled and the panels were sent out to be cleaned and the letters to be repainted.

“The Cortland County Highway Department did all the work for us and we can’t thank them enough,” Napieracz said. He thanked the county and local businesses, organizations and donors for helping Chapter 377 raise the money for the project.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial renovation is taking place alongside the Veterans Search and Rescue’s project to refurbish and upgrade the Cortland Veterans Memorial Park.

So far, construction has included taking down the wall of engraved names and redoing the groundwork to stabilize the memorial, and sectioning off a large circular area for what will be the Battlefield Cross statue as a centerpiece.

“The Battlefield Cross is the third and final phase of this three-phase project at which time we are on phase one,” said Norm Stitzel, chaplain of Veterans Search and Rescue, in a Facebook post on Aug. 13.

As of last week, the organization was about $700 away from affording the Battlefield Cross, and Stitzel said they still needed substantial funds to finish phases one and two of the project.

Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 377 plan to visit the Cortland County Legislative session on Thursday to speak during the privilege of the floor portion of the meeting.

“We’ll be speaking to recognize members of the city and county and thank them for their dedication and hard work to get this project done,” Napieracz said.