Windsor Locks Eagle Scout restores Gulf War Memorial

Steve Smith, Hartford Courant

On Jan. 17, a ceremony will take place to dedicate a restored monument to Gulf War veterans from Windsor Locks.

The site, containing a plaque and two benches, at the corner of Elm and Mulberry Streets, was restored and updated because of the efforts of Jake Lang, a 17-year-old (who turns 18 on Jan. 26) Eagle Scout. Lang was inspired by his father, Robert, a veteran and Windsor Locks police officer.

Originally, the idea was to do his Eagle project on a police officer who lost his life in the line of duty decades ago. Lang was planning to create a memorial, but construction plans for Main Street precluded that idea. Then, Lang learned of the veterans memorial, which is approximately 20 years old and in a state of disrepair, and was inspired to clean it up and honor the veterans.

“This project just completely hit me in a totally different area,” Lang said. “My father had served in the Persian Gulf War, and it felt right to me that this site needed to be better.”

Youth Services Bureau Director Wendy Knowles helped Lang with the project.

“The benches were falling apart, rotted, and overgrown with trees,” Knowles said. “We did some research in town and he has created this Persian Gulf [veteran] memorial.”

Lang and Knowles originally planned a more-modest upgrade of the memorial, with a budget of just a few hundred dollars, but soon found more donors willing to contribute. To date, $4,000 has been raised, via online donations, and word-of-mouth.

“The plan was always to have a GoFundMe page,” Lang said. “Originally our estimate was around $400. We were going small. One night, we said, ‘What is the dream budget of this project?,’ and we estimated it around $5,000. It just spiraled out of control, and we decided that, it being a military project, it would get a lot of support. In the first day of the GoFundMe page, we raised somewhere around $1,500.”

Contributors included veterans groups, which gave $500 each, and individuals who were also quite generous.

“We’ve been getting more donors from veterans organizations and people to contribute some goods and manual labor, including welding, sandblasting ,and powder-coating of the benches,” Knowles said.

Lang said he was actually doing some of the powder-coating himself, as some of the finishing touches on the project, between press time and the 17th.

Pavers will also be able to be purchased by family members of veterans, and will create paths for each branch of service, leading to the flag.

Jan. 17 is also the 30-year anniversary of the beginning of the Gulf War combat.

Inside the Windsor Locks Town Hall is a list of all Boy Scouts who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in Troop 263. Troop 263 started in 1967 and was chartered by St. Robert’s Church. Lang will be the 57th Boy Scout from Troop 263 to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout in the troop’s 53-year history.

Boy Scout Troop 264 will be hosting the ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 17, starting at 1 p.m. First Selectman Chris Kervick is scheduled to speak, as well as representatives of veterans organizations.