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New Haven honors veterans, preserves history

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By Kacey Goode

 The City of New Haven is furthering its recognition of veterans by reaching out to the community in an effort to collect and preserve pictures, articles and records in relation to military personnel from the New Haven area.

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Tessie Cecil, director of the Historical Preservation and Information Center in New Haven, and volunteers have been working to collect the material to be preserved and displayed in the old Dr. Bushra Khan office building.

“We have a lot of opportunities concerning the historical preservation here and the veterans that we need to honor in this area,” Cecil said when addressing the New Haven Board of Commissioners about her project. “That is more the reason why we need to keep going.”

Cecil’s biggest goal with the project is to match photographs with the list of names of the city’s veterans, which was unveiled at the city’s first annual Veterans Day Celebration in 1993 (though veteran programs have been held there since the early 1980s).

“On the monument, we have over 400 names and maybe we can fill up the whole building with pictures,” she said. “They may be small pictures, but maybe we can identify each person, each name, with the faces.”

The pictures are being displayed at the center on the “Wall to Honor and Remember” and are categorized by war era, family and those who died in action.

While Cecil has been able to track down several photographs and news clippings, she is urging the community members to help by searching through their attics, storage and family albums.

“The thing I encounter (when approaching veterans about the project) is, ‘Well I didn’t go to war, I wasn’t in Korea or Vietnam.’ It does not matter if you weren’t there, you wore the uniform,” Cecil said. “Anybody that wears the uniform and was sworn in to wear the uniform, we recognize it.”

Cecil, who retired last year from Heaven Hill Distillery and devotes her time to the center and other historical preservation programs in the community, said veterans programs have always been big for the city and by completing this project, she and others can better remember and honor those who served our country.

“It’s emotional. It’s an upside down battle for me; I wish I could do more for them because it’s too close to me, these people that have served.

City Clerk Linda Mattingly supported Cecil’s project during a commissioner meeting saying, “If we don’t preserve our history here, it’s going to be gone … It benefits the community for Tessie to do what she does.”

Cecil and her associates recently received at $2,000 tourism grant to help with her work at the preservation center, which she is excited about.

“I am so grateful we got this grant,” Cecil said, but the material is what is most important. “Hopefully people will help me get my dreams and goals going as far as this project.”

Anyone seeking more information about the project or those wishing to share military items from those who served or are currently serving from the New Haven area are asked to contact the preservation center at (502) 827-5003, email CNHinformation@roadrunner.com or contact City Hall at 502-549-3177, or visit the preservation center at 306 Center St. next to the post office.

Monetary donations for the center to assist the projects are also being accepted.

“Hopefully, it will be ready by the time Veterans Day comes,” Cecil said.