Project engages community in remembering fallen soldiers

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

American flags line the sidewalk outside of the Bomb Bay Cafe on North Main Street in Naugatuck before Memorial Day. Cafe owner Edward Hughes attached the name of a Naugatuck resident who was killed in combat to each flag as part of an effort to engage the community in learning more about the fallen soldiers. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — A local cafe owner’s project for Memorial Day engaged the community in remembering the lives of borough residents who died serving their country.

Bomb Bay Cafe owner Edward Hughes lined the sidewalk in front of the cafe on North Main Street with 152 small American flags the day before Memorial Day, May 25. Each flag had the name of a Naugatuck resident who was killed in combat from the Civil War until the war in Iraq.

Hughes, who opened his doors three years ago on Memorial Day, then went to Facebook. He asked people to pick up a flag, research the person whose name is on the flag and share what they discovered on Facebook, before placing the flag in front of their homes.

Hughes said he wanted to think of a creative way for the soldiers to be remembered.

“I’ve seen the list. I heard the list, but I didn’t know how those people died and their commitment to our country,” Hughes said.

Within 24 hours, all the flags were picked up.

“I respect what they (veterans) do. I thought it was a good way to honor them and get the community involved,” Hughes said.

Naugatuck resident Daniel Devine Jr. was one of the people to take a flag. The flag he got had the name Cpl. William E. Nordby attached to it. Devine said he learned Nordby was only about 22 years old when his plane was shot down over Taiwan in World War II.

“I think that it was a great, creative idea. … I hope they do this again next year,” Devine said. “Maybe for Veterans Day put local vets’ names on flags. I think this represents how tight our community is in the toughest of times.”

Naugatuck Veterans Council Chairman John DeBisschop picked up five flags; one for himself and four for his sons.

“I thought it was a fantastic idea that really got the community involved in Memorial Day. I think the most meaningful part of the Memorial Day is the ceremony after Memorial Day parade where we remember those names,” said DeBisschop, who has been chairman of the veterans council for eight years. “His project brings the true meaning of Memorial Day — the remembrance of the fallen soldiers — to the community at large.”

The veterans council didn’t have the technology that is available today to research genealogy in the past. DeBisschop said the project gave him an opportunity through his own research to put soldiers’ faces to stories.

“It has brought the community closer to the veterans council and the services that we conduct throughout the year. I think Ed’s project ties what we do all the time into the community at large for them to take part in it,” DeBisschop said. “The community and the council benefits to the added support that Ed’s project brought by bringing everyone together.”

Hughes said some flags were taken by family members of the men whose names were on the flags.

“People took it as more than a name on a flag, but as part of memory,” Hughes said. “It touches home a lot more, when you see 152 flags, it hits home.”