Teacher creates program to honor veterans
The town of Darien has adopted a program, put forward by a Wilton woman, who is a teacher there, that will see the names of local veterans placed on street signs. The names will be placed on the sign of the street that the veteran lives or lived on.
One new name will be put on an existing street sign every Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Fourth of July. No street addresses will change.
“Our goal is to unveil the first street sign recognition in time for Memorial Day,” said Lucy Berry. Berry teaches eighth grade history at Middlesex Middle School and is the brainchild of the veteran recognition program.
“We will have a curbside ceremony where the street sign is unveiled,” she said.
Darien residents will get the chance to nominate veterans through a process that is still being worked out. The town’s Monuments and Ceremonies Commission will decide which veteran’s name is chosen for the street sign. The names that aren’t selected will be returned to the pool to be reconsidered in the future.
Berry came up with the idea for the project after attending a teacher conference in Washington, D.C., last summer. The conference was hosted by an organization called The Friends of the National World War II Memorial.
“The five-day conference featured presentations by experts of World War II history, a panel discussion with World War II veterans, tours of sites of World War II significance, and a remembrance ceremony at the World War II Memorial,” said Berry, 56, who grew up in Darien and now lives in Wilton.
Everyone who participated in the conference was encouraged to return home and start a program that raises community awareness about the sacrifices and service of veterans, according to Berry.
She presented her idea to the Monuments and Ceremonies Commission in October. After receiving approvals from the Darien Police Department and Department of Public Works, it was approved by the Board of Selectmen in November.
Berry said she envisions the application process as a way of gathering information about Darien’s “hometown heroes.”
“Kids can learn about our town’s own veterans,” Berry said. “History is so much more relevant to children when it’s real people they’re learning about as opposed to someone from a textbook who doesn't have any ties to their lives.”
A local printing company will put the veterans’ names on the signs. The entire project will be funded by private donations, according to Berry, which are now being sought.
The project is very “meaningful” for Berry, she said, because she was raised in Darien and has been teaching American history at Middlesex Middle School for 20 years.
“Each year at Middlesex, we put together a program to honor veterans on Veterans Day, and this takes our recognition of their service to a new level,” Berry said. “Recognition should transcend a single day.”
The program will serve to “increase pride in the Darien community as we celebrate fellow citizens,” she said. “Also, it will increase community awareness of acts of bravery and examples of service above self.”
Love of history
Berry was in the eighth grade at Mather Junior High School — which is now where town hall is — during the country’s bicentennial celebration.
“That is when my love for American history was really born — when I learned about the role that Darien had during the Revolutionary War,” Berry said.
Berry said she loves to get young people enthusiastic about service. She hopes to empower them with a “heightened sense of community, civic engagement, and personal responsibility,” she said.
“Recognition of our own hometown veterans is a good place to start.”