A monument to fallen military men and women stands in the garden outside a Bath Beach church, thanks to dedicated members of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post who donated the granite tribute.
The monument, donated by the Capt. Vincent F. Atene VFW Post #3230, is located at Saint Finbar Catholic Church, at 138 Bay 20th St. The memorial, made to look like a gravestone, was dedicated on Sunday by the Rev. Michael Louis Gelfant, the church’s pastor, following a mass held in honor of veterans.
The inscription reads, “In memory of all those who served in the armed forces and those who made the supreme sacrifice. We will never forget them.”
“This is an opportunity for us as a parish to pause and pay tribute to those who serve,” Gelfant told parishioners during the mass. “To be a soldier is a vocation. Let’s never forget those who died.”
The monument is “not a cold stone,” but an object “built with love,” the pastor said.
There was a short prayer service and the playing of “Taps” on a bugle. Gelfant blessed the monument with holy water. State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn) was among those who attended the dedication.
The story of how the monument came to be placed at St. Finbar Church starts with Gelant.
Eager to find a way to pay tribute to military men and women killed in action, the pastor approached one of his parishioners, Charles Shelley, whose late father, also named Charles, was a World War II veteran. Shelley keeps in touch with the members of the Atene VFW Post, where his dad had once served as president. “Father Gelfant said he wanted to put up some kind of memorial up, so I approached the VFW. When I told the guys about it, they said they would donate it,” Shelley told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“It was very, very generous of them,” Shelley added.
“We thought it was the right thing to do. Our membership went along with it,” Joe Ruggiero, a World War II veteran and secretary-treasurer of the post, told the Eagle. “We have some funding. We try to give to schools, churches. It’s very important to remember the sacrifices that people made.”
Ruggiero and Post Commander Angelo Tammaro placed a wreath and red, white and blue roses on the monument. Tammaro served in the navy during World War II.
Vincent Atene, the man for whom the VFW post is named, was an army doctor killed in World War II.
The VFW-donated monument is not the only tribute to war veterans that St. Finbar has. In the lower church, a plaque containing the names of parishioners killed in World War II hangs on a wall. “A lot of guys from the parish joined the service during the war,” Shelley said.
Shelley’s father took part in D-Day, storming the beach at Normandy.
In his homily during the mass, Gelfant reminded parishioners that the sacrifices made by those who fight this country’s wars paved the way for their fellow Americans to live freely. “They were in the trenches so we could worship freely,” he said.