By Rich Place

A group of area residents here remain committed to honoring this country’s veterans by constructing an awe-inspiring star-shaped tribute along Route 62, which is designated as the National Veteran’s Highway.

About 12,000 bricks will make up a large 100-by-100-foot star and veterans’ names will be inscribed at the site, allowing visitors to stop, reflect and honor those who served in the armed forces.

“If it wasn’t for our military, we couldn’t live the lifestyle we live,” said James Lint, coordinator for the North Collins Veterans Tribute project. “I was in the Air Force, I had two brothers in the military, and uncles and cousins as well. We fought for a better life and, if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have that.”

The vision for the tribute, which will be located near the North Collins Senior Center, includes a walkway to a large granite star that will lay on the site, a 6,000-pound V-shaped centerpiece with two hands holding an eternal flame, six flags including the American flag and five military flags and 4×8- and 8×8-sized brick paving stones with veterans’ names and service information.

The project got started about three years ago when Lint was among those who raised their hand at a town board meeting to begin formulating a veterans tribute.

“We don’t even have a veterans site here,” he said. “Every other town has a veterans site.” A “hopeful” goal, he said, is to have it completed in fall 2018.

The town of North Collins donated a piece of land outside the North Collins Senior Center for the tribute, which continues to gain momentum for its construction. The group broke ground on the site last year.

Lint said the tribute recently received its 501(c)(3) status and is nearly halfway toward its $100,000 goal. The first two years haven’t focused on donations as intently as the group hopes to going forward because of the other processes needed to set up such an organization, Lint said.

“In that two-year process we had to get our 501(c)(3), we had to get an insurance policy on the place, we had to get incorporated. That alone took a year,” he said.

Donations continue to arrive in various forms, including ones from businesses for things like electrical supplies and lighting, for example, to be used on the site. Donations are also coming in for veterans’ names on the bricks but there is still plenty more room left, said Lint.

The board of about a dozen volunteers has organized the tribute thus far, including the two annual fundraisers — a spaghetti dinner in the winter and a chicken barbecue in the fall — that have helped raise funding for the project.

The appeal of the veterans tribute is expected to be visually striking — the flags will have lights on them, the space will be neatly crafted and the names organized in the shape of a star complement the tribute. But it’s about more than just aesthetics.

“It’ll be like a park setting,” Lint said. “You’ll be able to show appreciation for our veterans.” He said he hopes this veterans star will be the first of 50, with one in each of the states.

The site in June hosted a veterans tribute, and the ceremony featured the Color Guard and elected officials including state senator Patrick Gallivan, Erie County Legislator John Mills and retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief Neil Ross.

“This is not a memorial, it’s a tribute,” said Lint at the ceremony. “People can dedicate the bricks to veterans that are dead or alive.” Also, if a veteran’s birthday is coming up, those who purchase a brick can choose to have the board send a birthday card to the veteran’s home.

Those who want to honor a veteran in the North Collins Veterans Tribute can find brick order forms on Prices for each brick include:

$100 for a 4×8 brick without an insignia

$125 for a 4×8 brick with an insignia

$175 for an 8×8 brick without an insignia

$200 for an 8×8 brick with an insignia.

In addition, every business that makes a donation to the tribute will receive a Certificate of Donation they can display to let everyone know their support. Businesses that donate over $500 will have the name of their business engraved on a 4×8 brick placed in the walkway to the star. Those that donate over $1,000 will have an 8×8 brick placed in the walkway.

Lint said the tribute isn’t just for those in North Collins, as brick orders have come in from as far away as Florida and Nevada.

All donations and order forms for the North Collins Veterans Tribute can be mailed to James Lint, 2568 Marshfield Road, Lawtons, New York, 14091.