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Streets Renamed After Fallen Soldiers

June 14, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Loretta Derenda’s home sits only a few steps from what used to be called Candlelight Lane, where her son Robert walked to school as a child.

Candlelight Lane is now ``R.V. Derenda Lane″ named in honor of Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert V. Derenda, who died in Iraq last summer at age 42.

Around the country, street names have been changed, trees planted and plaques hung in tribute to the soldiers lost during more than three years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

``When we remember it’s painful, but if people forgot it would be just as painful,″ Loretta Derenda said.

As of Tuesday, at least 2,498 members of the U.S. military had died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. Another 295 had died in or around Afghanistan since November 2001, according to the Department of Defense.

An American Legion post, ``David McKeever Post 64,″ in south Buffalo is named after a native who grew up in the neighborhood where he played football, street hockey and basketball as a child.

McKeever was 25, had just made sergeant and was 15 days from returning home to his wife and baby when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his humvee in Baghdad two years ago.

``It kind of lets people know what type of person he was and what kind of impact he had on this community, the impact he had on life in general,″ Thomas McKeever said of his brother’s name in white letters across the post.

Such tributes help loved ones heal, but they also serve as a reminder that the country’s military losses are more than a running tally of numbers, said Bonnie Carroll, founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a national support group.

``They are permanent evidence that the life was lived,″ she said.

``Piestewa Peak,″ which rises 2,608 feet above Phoenix, was named for Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa, the first military servicewoman to die in the war, in 2003. An oak tree grows in her name outside the barracks at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

In Michigan, Lansing named a Memorial Day Parade in honor of Richard Rosas, an Army private killed by an IED in Fallujah. And Canton’s Libertyfest last June included a flagpole dedication for Trevor Blumberg, a 22-year-old paratrooper who died in Fallujah in 2003.

Burnside Township, Pa., is home to ``Andrew `Andy’ Jodon Memorial Field,″ a ballpark formerly known as Burnside Park where Jodon played ball as a child and adult, and where he and his wife, Bobbi Jo, held their wedding reception.

A roadside bomb killed the 27-year-old Army sergeant and father of two last May in Samarra, Iraq.

``It’s a comfort that something will live on in his memory,″ lifelong friend Bill Jozefick told his hometown newspaper at the May 13 dedication.

Army Sgt. Cari Anne Gasiewicz, a 28-year-old interpreter, was in a convoy in 2004 traveling to Kuwait, where she planned to spend Christmas before heading home. She was killed by two improvised explosive devices.

``Cari Lane″ in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga was Bordeaux Drive when Gasiewicz and other neighborhood kids played tennis and kickball there.

Narrow and with no houses and little traffic, the street served only to connect two others. Now it connects a father to the daughter he lost.

``Every day I say `good morning’ to her,″ said Paul Gasiewicz, who drives the street on his way to work.

On the first anniversary of her death, her parents watched as the Military Intelligence Headquarters at Fort Gordon, Ga., became ``Gasiewicz Hall.″

Closer to home, two pear trees grow behind the softball backstop at Depew High School in their daughter’s honor. ``Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat,″ her coach and former teammates had etched on a plaque.

Tracy, Calif., officials asked developers to name streets in new subdivisions after hometown servicemen killed in the war _ Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, Army Staff Sgt. Steven Bridges, National Guard Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey and Army Pfc. Jessie Martinez.

``So often the news will focus on the circumstances of the death,″ said Carroll, the support group president. ``For the family, the real healing comes in remembering and reflecting on the years that were lived.″


On the Net:

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: http://www.taps.org

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