Five more pictures go up on state Capitol’s ‘Wall of Honor’
They began with 42 photographs in 2007. No chiseled granite or cast bronze, just inexpensively framed photos of men and women on a gray wall in a concourse connecting the Legislative Office Building and State Capitol.
Formal portraits of young Marines in dress blues. Snapshots of soldiers in desert fatigues, one grinning under a helmet and dark glasses. A black-and-white photo of a bearded airman holding a wide-eyed Afghan child.
Connecticut’s Wall of Honor, a tribute to the state’s military losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, received two new photographs last year. On Thursday, five more pictures were hung in a second annual “addendum ceremony.”
The state’s first loss was Air Force Technical Sgt. John Chapman, 36, of Windsor Locks. He died March 4, 2002 during a firefight in eastern Afghanistan, trying to find a Navy SEAL.
“That same day, Tyler Griffin was 11 years old, growing up in Voluntown, telling anyone who would listen was that his goal in life was to become a Marine,” Comptroller Nancy S. Wyman said.
A portrait of Lance Corporal Tyler Owen Griffin was hung on the wall Thursday. He was killed last month by an improvised-explosive device in Afghanistan, two months before his 20th birthday. His photo is a formal portrait of a handsome young man in his dress blues, staring into the distance.
Another Marine, Corporal Xhacob LaTorre of Waterbury, and three soldiers, Capt. Benjamin Sklaver of Hamden, Staff Sgt. Ronald Spino of Waterbury and Sgt. Edward Kramer of Southington, also took their places Thursday on the wall.
“I thank you for coming here. I am hoping that it feels comfortable,” Wyman told relatives of the fallen. “We are privileged to honor your loved ones.”
Wyman created the memorial with radio personality Brad Davis.
The Air Force says Chapman saved his team by destroying one enemy position, then attacking a machine-gun nest. It honored him with the Air Force Cross, an award for valor second only to the Medal of Honor. The Navy named a ship after him.
Connecticut is remembering him with a framed photograph of Chapman and a child.
The picture has a story.
Steve Jensen, an aide whom Wyman credits with arranging the memorial and the annual ceremonies, said Chapman was with a mixed unit of U.S. and Afghan soldiers, caught in a blizzard.
The Afghan soldiers commandeered two houses in a village, throwing out the occupants. Chapman intervened, insisting that the women and children remained sheltered in one house. A woman thanked him by placing her daughter in his arms. Someone snapped a photo.
Chapman needs a shave and a haircut. He looks weary, but content. The girl’s fingers are wrapped around Chapman’s. The shot is timeless.
The photo is a favorite of Jensen’s. He says it reminds him of a picture you might find in Life magazine, from any war, any era.
Next year, a photo of Connecticut Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Edwin Rivera of Waterford will go on the wall.
He died Tuesday from injuries suffered in Laghman Province, Afghanistan.
“Eight years,” Wyman said, “fifty sons and daughters.”
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