In its four years of existence, the Newtown Youth Academy sports and fitness complex has become a gathering place for many in the Newtown community. Now, founder Peter D’Amico wants to turn part of it into something more: A place of honor for those who are or have served in the U.S. Military.
Construction will begin next week, weather permitting, on a Veterans Honor Garden in the outdoor courtyard behind the NYA. It will be a backdrop to the large lighted fountain that has already been built, and community members are invited to purchase brick pavers engraved with the names of active and former members of the military for a walkway between the fountain and the garden.
Although D’Amico has a son in the FBI, and his executive assistant, Kaki Taylor, has a son in the Air Force, his inspiration for the project did not come from a personal connection but from a desire to honor those whose “personal sacrifice allows Americans to enjoy the freedoms we have today.”
“It’s always on my mind to honor people who served for us,” he said. “When you’re looking at the news and see those young people come home in body bags, you think, ‘I have to do something.’”
Plans are for a long, low wall, where people can sit, at the base of a short hill, which will be planted with flowers and native grasses. Set into the wall will be five bronze plaques, one for each branch of the military.
The engraved walkway pavers are now available for purchase by anyone who wishes to honor a veteran.
“I’m donating 50 (pavers) for people from Connecticut who have died in combat since 1990,” D’Amico said. “Other people can donate for a relative who has been in the military.”
The cost to donate a paver is $100, and can be arranged by filling out an online order form at
www.newtownyouthacademy.org/veteran, or by calling Peter J. D’Amico, D’Amico’s son, at 203-426-0088, ext. 110.
Construction of the wall, by Robert Manna of LRM Inc., is scheduled to begin next week, to be followed by plantings by Brid Craddock Heirloom Gardens. Both are Newtown-based businesses.
The garden design and the proposed memorial were reviewed and approved by the Newtown Veterans of Foreign Wars, First Selectman Pat Llodra, members of the Newtown Land Use Agency and the Fairfield Hills Authority on Monday, March 5.
The outdoor courtyard space, which doubles as the NYA’s fire access road, is primarily used as a casual gathering spot for those at the NYA for sports tournaments and anyone who would like to enjoy it. It is also available to rent for events.
Community groups are welcome to volunteer to help plant the native grasses that will replace the current grass at the top of the garden location. These will require less maintenance than lawn grass, said Kaki Taylor, D’Amico‘s executive assistant. Those interested in volunteering may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A dedication of the Veterans Honor Garden is being planned for Saturday or Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. It won’t be on Memorial Day itself, because the VFW has a ceremony that day at its post on Tinkerfield Road.