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Local leaders break ground on War on Terror memorial

Local officials took part in a ceremony on Monday for a War on Terror Memorial to be built in Rochester.

In his remarks before the groundbreaking, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said the structure, which is being built near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park, will honor the lives of those who have died in overseas conflicts since 1990. 

“This is an important and emotional day for the countless people who worked tirelessly to make this day possible,” said Bello.

One of those people helped make the memorial possible was former County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo who was invited to speak at the ceremony. She called the memorial “sacred ground.”

“While the lives of those who have fallen ended abruptly. Their flame burns eternal and cannot be extinguished,” said Dinolfo.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Hector Sotomayor was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the memorial. 

Sotomayor pleaded with the public to remember the importance of the Memorial Day holiday.

“This isn’t about us,” Sotomayor said. “This is about those who laid down their lives. So that you and I can enjoy this great life in this great nation of ours.”

Memorial Day is dedicated to the memory of those who died while serving America like Jason Hasenauer of Hilton. Hasenauer was killed in Afghanistan in 2005. His parents Dan and Rita were on hand for the ceremony. Dan Hasenauer said this new space is sacred.

“It's a place to come and sit and think and remember,” said Hasenauer. “Not just for my son. It’s all the fallen.”

During the ceremony, which had limited attendance, and was broadcast on local TV stations and online, many credited retiring state senator Joe Robach for securing the quarter-million dollar grant from the state needed for construction.

“And as I get to the end of my elected time in office,” said Robach. “It’s been an honor and privilege to serve this community, I couldn’t be happier that we finally got this project done. 

The memorial will feature 10 concrete pillars, five for the branches of the military, one for those who were missing in action, and others represent two wars in Iraq, and the wars in Somalia and Afghanistan.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.