Memorial Built to Honor Soliders Killed in Iraq and Afghanistan

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    Families of troops killed in wars attend ceremony in Middletown.

    Small American flags marked the sites of 65 trees, each honoring one of the 65 men and women from Connecticut killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.  The trees will be planted later this spring in Veterans Memorial Park in Middletown.

    "It's a living memorial," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, on stage at the park next to the governor and lieutenant governor.

    Also on stage were the two spearheads of the project who tapped donors for money and materials, Sue Martucci and Diane DeLuzio.  They met at the funeral in 2010 for Sgt. Steve DeLuzio, whose picture was on one of 65 gold stars hanging near the 65 flags.

    "This project is one I think will touch the entire state because we've lost someone from every corner of the state," said Diane DeLuzio. "We have dogwood, we have cherry, we have redbud, and snow crab - a crabapple without the fruit - so they'll be wonderful and they'll all be blooming in the spring, not exactly at the same time, and by next spring, it'll be beautiful."

    Jessica Goodwin took her two-month-old daughter, Maya, to the ceremony.

    "My brother was only 19 years old when he was killed by a roadside bomb," she said, of Lance Cpl. Philip Johnson, killed in Iraq in 2006. "He never got to meet his niece and this is a way she can come and still see a piece of him alive."

    Next year there is to be a permanent pavilion and sculptures at the memorial, plus granite markers.

    Ryan Dion, who lost a leg in Iraq, said it seems like it'll be a good place to be.

    "It's something local that we can always pop up and have a couple hot dogs and hamburgers and share stories and cherish those people who gave the ultimate sacrifice," Dion said.