It’s Bay Ridge’s wall of honor.
Community leaders, amateur neighborhood painters, and professional muralists unveiled an artistic tribute to our nation’s veterans at Fort Hamilton Athletic Field on Nov. 16.
The new painting salutes those who served our country in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and came out of months of collaboration between the community and the mural group Groundswell.
Last year Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) approached Groundswell — a group dedicated to creating cooperative public artwork — and asked them to help design a memorial in the park space behind the Bay Ridge High School. Groundswell recruited Esteban del Valle, an artist with family in the military, to the cause.
“It was important to me to honor their dedication to our country,” del Valle said.
Del Valle spent the next several months meeting with recent returnees from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns at Fort Hamilton Army Garrison, trying to get a sense of their experience and translate it into art. The young vets told del Valle that the military branches appear to be merging — for instance, with the Marines now training alongside the Army — and suggested that one day that the armed forces might one day be unified. The notion inspired the artist to design a new logo incorporating the Army star, Navy anchor, and Marine Corps globe into a single image.
The muralist also met with veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam at Gentile’s office. The older generations of servicemen told del Valle that they wanted to be recognized not just for their military service, but also for their post-military life. So the artist decided to incorporate scenes of welcome-home celebrations and soldiers embracing children.
“We’re acknowledging their presence in the community and creating something for their families to be proud of,” said del Valle.
Del Valle sketched out the mural with the help of Groundswell youth artists — and brothers — Eric and Adon Palermo-Rojas, both Sunset Park natives and Fort Hamilton grads. Then, on Nov. 3, they invited the community to come out and color the artwork in. Seventy-five people came to paint, and each one wrote a letter to active duty troops. A few weeks and final touches later, the mural stood as a moving acknowledgment of what generations of American veterans have done for our country.
“It’s important that we honor their sacrifices,” del Valle said.