This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.05/13/2019 12:00 AM
"You are just as important as you were before you went in the service. We all respect the uniform. We all are here because we respect the uniform."
That was a message from Carolyn Sires to this country's veterans, on the night she helped Branford welcome American patriotic artist Scott LoBadio to the town green with his Veterans Suicide Awareness art installation, "22-13."
LoBaido, a Staten Island, NY artist, first took his "22-13" first took his installation on the road in March, with the goal of setting up the sculpture at 13 different stops among America's original 13 colonies. Sires, a physical therapist who works with veterans; a certified suicide prevention watch and reporter, and therapy service dog handler/trainer, organized LoBaido's visit to Branford.
Branford was the final stop, and the only Connecticut site, on Lobaido's 13-state tour.
The May 6 ceremony opened at 7 p.m. Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corp played patriotic music as Honor Guard of the Branford American Legion Post 83 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12106 stood at attention, together with an Honor Guard presented by members of the Patriot Guard Riders of CT. A large American flag, hoisted above the green by ladder truck, was manned by members of Branford Fire Department, who stood by during the ceremony, together with members of Branford Police Department. Grace Kelly Nowak sang the National Anthem and Amazing Grace.
Among those who came out at 7 p.m. on May 6 to welcome LoBaido were Sires, First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove and Branford Elks Post 1939 "Elk of the Year" Ray Ingraham, the night's main speaker. U.S. Army Chaplain (Red) Lt. Cl. Tony Charles opened with a prayer ahead of Lobaido, who presented "22-13." The event was also attended by other local and state elected officials as well as representatives of University of New Haven Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Local veterans support groups, scouts and organizations hosted tables. The evening was sponsored by the Branford Republic Town Committee, Indian Neck Civic Association and Eastern Indian Neck Association.
To create the artwork, Lobaido arranged a large, Colonial flag-draped "22" (the numbers turn to one another, creating a heart in the negative space between). The white stripes of the flag are filled with images of soldiers at war, and ringing the sculpture's central 22 are 22 pairs of gold combat boots. The piece, together with 22 child-sized "lost soul" human figures standing by, was illuminated through the night.
The installation hopes to raise call for better, faster action to address the crisis of veterans' suicide, and the underlying issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, 20 to 22 veterans die by their own hand every day.