Branford Hosts Final Stop for Veterans' Suicide Awareness Art Installation
A CT Patriot Guard member holds an American flag (right) as Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corps (back, left) play to welcome patriotic artist Scott Lobaido's '22-13' Veterans Suicide Awareness art installation to the town green May 6. The Branford installation, which remained through May 7, was the only CT site and the final stop on Lobadio's tour of America's orginal 13 colonies. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
A closer view of the imagery of artist Scott Lobaido's '22-13' Veterans Suicide Awareness traveling art installation on the Branford green. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Branford organizer Carolyn Sires greets those gatehred to welcome artist Scott Lobaido's '22-13' Veterans Suicide Awareness traveling art installation to town on May 6. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Lobaido's '22-13' Veterans Suicide Awareness art installation shown here illuminated at night on the Branford Green. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
A Branford veterans' Honor Guard stands at attention on May 6 during the welcoming ceremony, as Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corp plays at back. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Branford installation organizer Carolyn Sires with artist Scott Lobaido and Sire's therapy dog, Blue, during Lobaido's visit to Branford with his traveling art installation May 6 -7, 2019. (Photo courtesy Carolyn Sires )
Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove (left) and visiting North Haven First Selectman Mike Frieda (right) and Miss Connecticut Jr. Teen were among the officials there to welcome the '22-13' art installation to the Branford green on May 6. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
"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.