According to veteran and Bridgeport resident Tom Leonette, the original design for the Bridgeport Veterans Memorial included five dogwood trees flanking the monuments. Somehow, those trees did not make it into or didn’t survive in the finished product.
Once Leonette approached Bridgeport City Councilman Jon Griffith about the matter, a plan was put in place. And now the five dogwood trees – five for the five branches of the military – have been planted at the memorial.
 “Mr. Leonette approached me shortly after I was elected to City Council concerning the missing dogwood trees at the Veterans Memorial,” Griffith said. “I assured him I would find a way to finish the job.”
True to his word, Griffith recently secured donations to purchase the dogwood trees, topsoil, and mulch needed with the help of fellow Bridgeport resident Greg Noone.
“A few weeks back, I ran into my friend Greg Noone and mentioned the project,” Griffith said. “He agreed to help me. Within 15 minutes, Greg had texted a few of his college rugby buddies, and the fundraising was done. I can’t thank them and Greg enough.”
Those donating to the cause are Luke Nolan, Chris Fleming, Mike Allard, Bill Sicord, Noone, and Griffith. Noone, Nolan, Allard, and Sicord attended Villanova University together and were rugby teammates.
Noone and Fleming served together in the U.S. Navy.
Luke Nolan donated twice in honor of his great-grandfather and father. The first is for his great-grandfather, Sergeant John J. Nolan, 8th New Hampshire, U.S. Army, Civil War, Medal of Honor recipient, and Irish immigrant to Nashua, NH. The second is for Luke’s father, Luke J. Nolan, Sr. U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne, World War II. He was a paratrooper who dropped behind enemy lines in Amiens, France, on June 6, 1944.
CAPT Chris Fleming, JAGC, USN, donated in memory of his grandfather, Petty Officer Michael John Cheosky, Electrician’s Mate Third Class, US Navy, World War II. Petty Officer Cheosky and the crew of the submarine USS Escolar are on eternal patrol. His submarine was presumed lost to an enemy mine in the Yellow Sea in October 1944. Petty Officer Cheosky was a first-generation Russian-American. He was a native of Stanaford, WV.
Mike Allard’s donation was for his father, Richard Allard, a U.S. Army Paratrooper during the Korean War.
Bill Sicord honors his father with his donation. His father, Max Sicord of the U.S. Army, served with the 1st Marines during the Korean War.
CAPT Gregory Paul Noone, JAGC, USN (Ret), named Staff Sergeant Paul Maliska, U.S. Army (a Polish immigrant), for whom he is donating. Staff Sergeant Maliska served with the 36th Infantry Division. He served in North Africa and Italy. He was part of the first US combat division to land on the European continent. His division also took Rome, landed in Southern France, liberated sub-camps of Dachau, spent 400 days in combat, and accepted the surrender of Field Marshal Hermann Goering.
Griffith’s donation honors his wife Heidi’s grandfather, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Pitrolo. He was a lifelong resident of Fairmont. He served in the European Theater during World War II. Staff Sergeant Pitrolo was a member of the 324th Engineer Battalion of the 99th Infantry Division that saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of the Rhur Pocket, and the Battle of the Rhine River. His meritorious service earned him three bronze star medals.
With funding in place, Griffith contacted Joe Shuttleworth, the Director of the Bridgeport Parks & Recreation Department, who agreed to have his staff plant and mulch the trees.
“I think the guys take pride in what this is for,” Shuttleworth said. “They take a lot of pride in making sure the memorial always looks nice, the flags are taken care of.”
Any funds remaining after the purchase of the trees will be used for cleaning the memorial and additional landscaping.
“It will liven up the whole area with the dogwood trees and that memorial is already one of the best in the state,” Leonette said. “Bridgeport did a wonderful job. With the dogwood trees, it’s going to be one of the most beautiful memorials we’ve ever seen.”
Editor’s Note: Submitted photos of the dogwood trees being planted at the Veterans Memorial.