The Stamford Advocate
STAMFORD OP-ED —
No single event had a greater impact on the citizens of Stamford than the Second World War. In a town of approximately 60,000 people, over 10,000 young men and women served their country during the war. They came from all socio-economic backgrounds, all races, religions, and political affiliations. They fought in every corner of the world and contributed as much as any town to the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. In many respects this was Stamford’s finest hour.
Of the 10,000 courageous Stamfordites who served their country, none embodies the virtues of the quiet humble citizen soldier more than Homer Wise. This adopted son of Stamford earned the highest honor given in combat, The Medal of Honor. Just as important, after his years in the military were over, he became a model citizen, a beloved friend and neighbor and to many in Stamford, as much a hero out of uniform as he was in it.
Now, through the efforts of the Homer Lee Wise Committee, a six-foot, three-inch statue is being created in honor of this great American. The figure will show not the face of a man at war, but rather, that of an ordinary young man, who like so many other young men of the time, was called upon to do extraordinary things, the everyman who embraced greatness.
There has been much discussion about a suitable location for the statue of Mr. Wise. It is imperative that it be placed where it would have maximum visibility and broad exposure to the citizens of Stamford.
No place would be more fitting than in Veterans Park in downtown Stamford. This is an ideal location, one where the citizens of Stamford, particularly young children, would be able to look upon a man who represents the very best qualities of the “Greatest Generation.” They would be able to read about his valor on June 14, 1944 in Magliano, Italy, where Homer Wise repelled several German attacks and almost single-handedly saved his platoon. They can learn, not only about the courageous acts that led to his Medal of Honor, but also of the numerous other acts of heroism that led to the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters and 10 other decorations. There might also be a small space in the park that would house Mr. Wise’s medals, and maybe even serve as a place to honor all Stamford veterans.
The park would also have special historical significance because of its symbolic importance during World War II. It was, after all, the site of the largest patriotic gathering in the history of Stamford. On Memorial Day 1943 an estimated 10,000 citizens gathered at the Old Town Hall to witness the unveiling of the “Stamford Service Roll” in “Central Park.” At the time the Service Roll had 5,555 names of Stamford servicemen and women on it. By war’s end it would have 10,000 names. That structure was torn down in 1952 and in 1977 it became the site of Veterans Memorial Park, a fitting, solemn and elegant tribute to Stamford’s war dead.
Homer Wise spent a fair amount of time in the area, where he served as an Army recruiter. It was not uncommon for people to see this modest man of celebrity, leaving his work at the Old Town Hall and walking across the street to the popular coffee shop Chat `n Chew, both of which faced the present Veterans Park. What better and more relevant location can there be?
It is no secret that Mr. Wise never discussed his Medal of Honor, and in fact his own son only learned of it when he was told by one of his teachers. He was simply never comfortable with his own fame and right up to his untimely death in 1974 he, like all veterans of Stamford, never acknowledged his own heroism. That is all the more reason for us to acknowledge him.
The statue of Mr. Wise is close to completion and needs a permanent home. It is only fitting that we place his likeness in Veterans Park, where Mr. Wise can face his fallen comrades. In giving him such an honor, we not only insure that his memory is honored but also the memory of the other 10,000 Stamfordites who answered their country’s call to duty. When future generations of Stamford’s children look into the face of Mr. Wise, they will see the perfect embodiment of every humble unassuming hero in Stamford. Such a tribute will do what all historical monuments should do: serve as a link between the past and the present, and a reminder to all of us of the debt we owe those who made this a better world for us.
In choosing this prominent location as a place to honor Mr. Wise, we have an extraordinary opportunity to pay tribute to a man who represents all that we love about Stamford, someone who understood that sometimes we are called upon to make sacrifices for a cause greater than ourselves.
If you would like to make a donation to the bronze statue of Homer L. Wise, please visit www.sgthomerlwisememorial.org.
Tony Pavia, a Stamford resident, is a member of the Homer Lee Wise Committee.