Monument at football stadium finds support from local donors

Monument at football stadium finds support from local donors

A brick walkway in front of the football stadium and to the right of the basketball courts is the proposed location for a monument honoring veterans at the newly named Veterans Memorial Stadium. The walkway will be incorporated into the new monument, which will be dedicated on Sept. 28, according to organizers. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A yearlong effort to honor the town’s fallen military heroes with a monument at the North Smithfield High School football field got a boost when a GoFundMe page dedicated to the project raised more than $2,000 in just over a week.

Combined with the $2,000 raised by the Veterans Memorial Flag Football Tournament in July, the funds will be enough to order the monument, according to Tony Guertin, the Parks and Recreation Commission chairman running the effort. Organizers hope to have the monument in place for a Sept. 28 dedication ceremony to be held in conjunction with a triple-header Saturday of football and soccer games.

“It’s been phenomenal when you think about it, in four days’ time, that we’ve raised what we have,” he said. “And what that means to me is people are behind it and want it to happen.”

Though the main cost of the project is covered, Guertin said the group continues to fundraise to support other costs related to the monument and the newly renamed Veterans Memorial Stadium. In addition to new signage at the entrance to the Dr. Paul F. Joyce Athletic Complex, the group hopes to create a “Wall of Honor” and other touches to honor all North Smithfield High School graduates who were killed in the line of duty.

“We’d like to do more. We’d really like to have a nice array of flagpoles, which are not cheap, and new flags,” he said. “And then we’re going to have some plaques on the reverse (of the monument), the ‘Wall of Honor,’ that’s going to memorialize those who were killed.”

The effort first came to light last fall, when a group including a representative of the Turcotte family approached the School Committee about renaming the football stadium “Veterans Memorial Stadium” in honor of all military veterans and those killed in the line of duty. In 2017, Spc. Matthew Turcotte, an Army infantryman and 2015 graduate of NSHS, was killed in a training accident in Colorado, prompting discussions about honoring his memory. The effort received the unanimous support of town officials, and the group moved forward with planning an appropriate monument for the entrance to the stadium.

Last month, a group of Turcotte’s former classmates, including Julia Cloutier and Cody DeMaire, hosted the inaugural Veterans Memorial Flag Football Tournament to honor their fallen classmate. Some of the proceeds were donated to the monument effort.

“The flag football tournament was a great success, and the whole effort is just a tremendous way to honor our veterans,” said Guertin. “Matt Turcotte’s sacrifice is what kicked it all off, and we’re not going to let that be forgotten.”

The monument will include a four-by-eight-foot granite marker with the words “Veterans Memorial Stadium” on the front and memorial plaques on the back. Based on a sketch by DeMaire, the monument will be created by Smithfield-based Granites of America, a company owned by town resident Tony Ramos. Among his previous projects, Ramos helped provide the stonework for the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The monument will be located to the right of the basketball courts, an area currently occupied by a memorial brick walkway created by Austin Cloutier, brother of Julia Cloutier, as part of a senior project. Guertin said the group plans to incorporate the existing walkway and expand upon it as part of the memorial.

Though plans for the monument have also included discussions of improvements at the stadium complex, with Guertin calling for a bond to support a concession stand and other additions, those discussions, he said, have currently been placed on hold.

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