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Peter Wiesneifski is no longer an unsung hero.
His name is now on the war monument outside Van Nest Playground, along with 29 other fallen Van Nest veterans. The engraving was unveiled at a special ceremony on Thursday, November 11.
“This was his home. He loved the people here and I’m sure he and my parents are very proud,” said Kathleen Walsh, Wiesneifski. “I’m so proud and overwhelmed.”
Wiesneifski was killed in action in 1970, just months after his 20th birthday. For unknown reasons his name was never put on the war monument that recognizes fallen veterans from Van Nest that served in WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
When word spread that his name had been left off the monument, the community campaigned to have the name engraved on the memorial, and Crown Monument chiselled the name for free.
“It was the result of great teamwork,” said Joe Bombace, a community member who helped organize the event.
Hundreds of residents and friends of Wiesneifski from the tri-state area came to the ceremony.
“It’s tremendous. Peter’s finally gotten the recognition he deserved,” said James Vernocchi, a childhood friend of Wiesneifski’s. “He was such a kind and gentle soul. Knowing Peter and the number of friends he had, once people realized his name had been left off the monument, I’m not surprised that so many people wanted to get involved. He had so many friends.”
The ceremony included laying a wreath on the monument, taps and the unveiling. Afterwards “Amazing Grace” was played on the bagpipes.
Al Ferago, the former Van Vest resident who first realized the omission, attended the event.
He said he was proud to see the name finally on the monument, and proud to know that he helped restore the history that could have otherwise been lost.
“I came down here and just by chance I noticed that Peter’s name wasn’t there, so I wanted to make it right,” he said. “It’s great. Now he’ll live on forever, people who didn’t know, now will know.”
To get the name engraved, Ferago spent months tracking down the proper paperwork from the military to prove Wiesneifski’s residence at the time of his death.
During the process he contacted Walsh, Wiesneifski’s only sibling, on the Internet. She had left the area in 1964, but still had family in the area for many years.
“I never really checked the monument,” she said. “I was surprised after all these years. I’m still overwhelmed.”
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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