Special ceremony cancelled due to weather, but public still turns out

GROVELAND — It has been over a year in the making, a special veterans project on the corner of Gypsy Lane.

The veterans project began to take form in the metal trade shop at the Mount Morris Genesee Valley Education (BOCES) with the hard work and dedication of students. Metal Trades Teacher, Olie Olson, and Teacher’s Aide, Rory Benkleman, brought this project to life with the students.

It had been opened up to veterans from all over to come and make metal poppies in honor of themselves or other veterans. The idea was to have enough to make a Metal Poppy Memorial in the form of the American Flag at the Livingston County property on Gypsy Lane. Many veterans, students, and community members answered that need and the project had a heartbeat.

Some who had never done any welding in their lives were helped by the students in the class. Many made more than one poppy for family and friends who served in several branches or wars. The heart and soul of veterans rests in the field as you drive down Groveland Road.

It was a breathtaking sight to behold as the community came out to honor Veterans Day on Nov. 11. The finished results of all that hard work was appreciated by many as people walked amongst the rows of metal poppies.

Due to the bad weather, the special ceremony planned by Livingston County Veterans Services was canceled. It will be rescheduled at a later time in safer driving conditions.

This did not stop many veterans and students from coming out to see their work covered in snow. There are rows upon rows of metal poppies with a story to tell. Each one is unique with a name or names in honor of veterans who served in all kinds of wars. There are many from WWII and the Vietnam War. There is one on display for The Unknown Soldiers and POWs. There are several with special additions like crosses, flags, planes, stickers, leaves, horseshoes, and other things of meaning to the individual who made the poppy.

As someone who has followed this story since the very start, it was breathtaking to see it all come alive before my eyes. As I walked in the bitter cold and slushy snow to capture the moments of the memorial, it made me think of my veterans. I had my grandpa who fought in WWII, Pvt. Donald M. Willis, who is always in my heart every single time I cover a veteran’s story. He was with me as I walked up and down looking at the names, ranks, and wars etched in steel on the red poppies. He was with me every time one of them was from WWII. He was with me as I felt the crispy wind touch my face and the emotion form in my eyes at the sight of the love and respect for veterans in this field.

We honor those we lost when we visit the Metal Poppy Memorial on Gypsy Lane. We remember them as we walk among the large red poppies and read the named etched inside the petals. We keep them in our hearts as we step back and take in the beauty of what a group of students, veterans, and community members came together to create in a metal workshop.

This is their story and it will remain in this field for many years to come.