Fallen Heroes Memorial: Veterans tribute unites community

Honoring those who served in the military is a small act of gratitude that can make a huge splash in the veterans’ community, and that’s why Mike Mastroni has been trying to make waves of appreciation felt through the Connecticut Fallen Heroes Foundation since 2005.

Mastroni founded the organization 10 years ago after his daughter's friend, Cheyenne Seymour, passed away. He said he reached out to Seymour’s family about paying tribute to her service in America’s armed forces.

The back and forth dialogue commenced in a commemorative softball game that Mastroni organized for his co-workers at Sikorsky.

As the years passed, Mastroni heard of more Connecticut military members that had died in combat. He wanted to expand the memorial beyond just the softball game, and eventually created a large public event called Fallen Heroes Memorial Tribute.

The Trumbull resident said he never had the opportunity to serve but knew that he had to do help in some way.

"I never served in the military," said Mastroni. "I feel a little guilty but all the families tell me I'm serving now."

The foundation will host the tribute, which celebrates its 11th anniversary this year, at the amphitheater at Indian Ledge Park beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26.

Mastroni raised more than $15,000 over the past year to fund this year’s program, getting most of his donations from Sikorsky. Donations may be made at the event by those who attend.

He said that the event will honor three fallen military members from Connecticut — Pfc. Thomas E. Donovan of Norwich; LCpl. Tyler O. Griffin of Voluntown; and Cpl. Xhacob Latorre, of Waterbury.

Other World War II veterans will make an appearance as well as their family members.

The Trumbull band, Remember September, will play at 11:30 to 12:55, taking the place of the military band that has played there in recent years. Admission is free. A lunch will also be served throughout the ceremony, no charge.

The Gold Star ceremony will start at 1 when First Selectman Timothy Herbst welcomes  everyone. Sen. Tony Hwang will be the keynote speaker, and will share the story of how his family fled communist China.

Mastroni encourages anyone and everyone to come and remember our fallen heroes.

"It's my mission in life," said Mastroni. "Everybody has a mission in life, and this is my mission, to honor these fallen heroes. It's my way of serving."