West Seneca, NY (WIVB) - A dedicated group of volunteers is working to build a lasting memorial to honor local veterans of two recent wars.
The organization "Western New York I AM," led by veteran Dan Frontera, envisions three granite structures in the Naval and Military Park on Buffalo's waterfront, right across from the Croaker submarine.
The granite will be engraved with the names of all 64 young men and women from the eight counties of Western New York who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it won't happen without some major fundraising help.
Saturday, between 250 and 300 people attended WNY I AM's fundraiser in West Seneca, to support the cause.
"The total cost is about $82,000. And right now, we've got about 25 percent of that in the bank," Frontera told News 4. "The timeline, if everything goes right, we will break ground and be able to do the foundation this year, and dedicate the actual granite structures for Memorial Day of next year."
At least ten of 64 "Gold Star Families" attended Saturday's fundraiser. Sandy Krege's son, Army Private 1st Class Travis Krege, is among the 64 whose names will be inscribed on the memorial.
"When he died, he died... with all these guys supporting him. And they continue to support him in a way that a lot of civilians seem to forget," Krege believes. "So it's real important for us, as parents who have lost our children, to have somebody -- you know, to have it remembered."
Veterans' monuments aren't built on the National Mall in Washington until ten years after the end of a war; but the local volunteers believe these dedicated servicemembers deserve recognition now, and every day.
Frontera got emotional, talking about it.
"These are our kids, these are our friends." He paused. "These are people who we went to church with, and people who shared our community. And we have a responsibility. We shouldn't wait to honor them."
Sandy Krege hopes that more people will donate, and appreciate the sacrifices our armed forces make each and every day.
"There's still a war going on. There's still men and women dying over there," she said. "[People] all need to remember that this is being done for their freedom."
Marine Corps Veteran Ralph Sirianni, who served in Vietnam, designed the concept for the "I AM" memorial.
"The way that the monuments will sit, the names will be inscribed facing towards the south. So each and every single day, no matter what, the sun's gonna shine on the names of those 64 kids," Frontera explained. "To make sure that this community remembers; these families know how much we love them and love their young people."
The Buffalo Sabres are planning a major fundraiser to support "WNY I AM" on October 20. Frontera says the team will make an official announcement shortly.
If you'd like to know more, or make a donation, visit wnyiam.org.
Copyright WIVB/LIN Media
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