BRICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – They are the faces of American heroes who called Brick, New Jersey their home before heading to war.
They are the fallen, but U.S. Army veteran Sgt. Bill Duffy is making sure they’re not forgotten, reports CBSN New York reporter Jessica Layton.
“It’s a passion, a labor of love,” said Duffy. “I came home, they did not come home.”
Duffy was a drill sergeant in the Army. He served from 1968 to 1971 – and during that time was deployed to Korea.
At the time, at 22-years-old, Duffy says he did not know what a gift it was to come home.
It wasn’t long after he started working as a police officer in Clark, N.J., that his appreciation for local legends really deepened.
In Clark, he was able to get streets named after those who died in war. His connection to that mission remained just as strong when he retired and moved to Brick seven years ago.
“I asked the old guys in Brick where did he live, how did he die?” said Duffy about those who did not return. “No one knew.”
Through his continued curiosity, he found his calling.
“I sent to the National Archives in DC to get all the military records, to see how they did, where they died, the cause of death, contacted family members,” he said.
His efforts prompted a welcome response from the survivors and heirs.
“From the families: Thank you for doing this, our son is remembered,” said Duffy.
His labor of love led him to Princeton Avenue near Winward Beach Park, where he’s had banners created and dedicated to those who fought for our country and never returned to see their families again.
“So proud of them, the color, I love the color, reminds me of the flag,” said Duffy.
“I think of my family history,” said Joe Brower staring at the banner that honors his great uncle Joel Holz who died after an ambush during the Civil War.
“We were very honored by it, said Brower. “He occupies a special place in our heart.”
Iraq War veteran Nat Amadeo says the project has been eye-opening for everyone who lives here.
“This is a connection to the actual people who were in the community,” said Amadeo. “A kid can walk down the block and say a hero lived on this block.”
The war memorial here in front of Town Hall bears the names of 12 heroes who never came home to Brick.
During his research bill discovered eight names are actually missing, getting them added here is his next project.
“I want to honor them,” said Duffy. “I came home.”
His vision for the memorial includes landscaping, new pavers, a new seating area and better lighting.
As for the banners, there are 20 right now. As much as the beauty of banner row warms Duffy’s heart, he hopes he’ll never need to add any more.