BRISTOL ‚Äď A monument dedicated to the late Brigadier General Edward Wozenski, Bristol‚Äôs most decorated veteran, was unveiled Saturday, with city leaders, veterans and family members gathering to show their respects.
In addition to the new monument on Memorial Boulevard dedicated to Wozenski, a new sign was unveiled on the section of South Street leading to Memorial Boulevard, which has been renamed ‚ÄúWozenski Way.‚ÄĚ
Wozenski was born in Bristol in 1915 and died in 1987. His decorations include two Distinguished Service Crosses, two Silver Stars and the Bronze Star. He also received the Commendation Medal, Belgium Fourragere, French Fourragere, Fourragere in Military Medallion, French Croix-de-Guerre with Bronze Star, American Overseas Medal, six overseas bars, European-African-Middle East campaign ribbons and Presidential Unit citations.
According to members of the monument committee, the event which represented the culmination of their efforts was a ‚Äúbig success.‚ÄĚ The dedication included the playing of audio tape excerpts spoken by Wozenski, speakers including family members and city leaders and the laying of a wreath on the monument with the Color Guard. Following the dedication, a reception was held at the Bristol Historical Society.
‚ÄúThis is what our committee was created for ‚Äď to show why this man deserved a monument on Memorial Boulevard,‚ÄĚ said Carol Denehy. ‚ÄúI think we were very successful.‚ÄĚ
Tom LaPorte, who was the master of ceremonies for the event, said that it ‚Äúran very smoothly.‚ÄĚ He thanked city and local leaders for coming out to show their support and Mike Ravita for directing the music for the unveiling.
‚ÄúHe did an outstanding job and really helped to round-out out program while showcasing Bristol‚Äôs musical talent,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúEverything came together well.‚ÄĚ
Mary Houle, Wozenski‚Äôs niece, said that her family was ‚Äúhonored‚ÄĚ to have the monument join those on Memorial Boulevard. About 25 family members gathered for the unveiling, some of them coming up from Pennsylvania and New Orleans to see it. Some, including Wozenski‚Äôs daughter, Cynthia, shared memories and stories about growing up with Wozenski. Family members wore poppy pins in his memory.
‚ÄúIt was wonderful,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe want to offer a big thank you to those who made this a success.‚ÄĚ
Art Ward, another committee member, said the wide attendance at the ceremony demonstrated Bristol‚Äôs commitment to honoring those who have served in the military and Wozenski‚Äôs achievements.
‚ÄúIt is a credit to our city that every monument on Memorial Boulevard was created with privately raised funds,‚ÄĚ he said.
Ward said Bristol was the first community to create a Vietnam War memorial in 1973, before the end of the war. Denehy added Bristol‚Äôs Civil War monument at West Cemetery was created when all 3,000 community residents at the time chipped in a dollar to fund it.
Committee Chairman Bob Barnett, who was Wozenski‚Äôs driver when he commanded the Connecticut National Guard in the 1960s, reflected on his interactions with Wozenski over the years.
‚ÄúIt wasn‚Äôt until we went back six years ago and researched all of these things about him that I realized I had been sitting next to a war hero,‚ÄĚ said Barnett, who noted those in military circles referred to Wozenski as ‚ÄėBig Ed.‚Äô
Wozenski fought on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II and served with Gen. George Patton in the First Division, known as ‚ÄúThe Big Red One‚ÄĚ in North Africa and Sicily. There is a hill in Sicily named ‚ÄúWozenski Hill‚ÄĚ after him.
On that hill, Wozenski‚Äôs bravery earned him a Distinguished Service Cross. He took a machine gun and advanced 100 yards from the enemy, firing on them single-handedly. His men, emboldened by his actions, moved to flank the enemy and accomplish their mission.
‚ÄúWhen he spoke to people about it, he just told people ‚ÄėI took out a tank‚Äô; he never tooted his own horn,‚ÄĚ said Denehy.
Barnett said Wozenski didn‚Äôt put himself above others.
‚ÄúHe just expected people to do their jobs to the max, and if they failed, they heard about it,‚ÄĚ said Barnett.
Barnett added a military reunion of the 169th Regiment was held after the ceremony during which participants also honored Wozenski.
Denehy said Wozenski was in battle for 443 days in World War II. She said he has been mentioned in several famous books about World War II, including ‚ÄúInvasion Diary‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúThe Longest Day.‚ÄĚ She is currently corresponding with Nick Pitt, an author in England, who is writing a book on the 16th Infantry Regiment, providing him with information on Wozenski.
After his service in World War II, Wozenski was deployed to Germany during the Korean War due to the threat of Soviet invasion. He went on to become the commander of the Connecticut National Guard. He was also a manager and held a supervisory position at Wallace Barnes Company, which later became Barnes Group, Inc. He also ran as a Republican candidate for mayor.
Later, this October, a pedestal will be added to the monument. The Monument Committee plans to gather again at the time that it is installed.
Members of the monument committee include Chairman Bob Barnett, Tom LaPorte, Wozenski‚Äôs niece Mary Houle, City Historian Bob Montgomery, City Councilor Scott Rosado, Carol Denehy of the Memorial Military Museum, Bristol Veterans Council Chair and former mayor Art Ward and President of the Military Museum Mike Thomas.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.