WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Robert Belko’s brother, Laurence, was a decorated war hero, but his name is misspelled on the West Haven Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Bradley Point Park.
“It kills me. It breaks me up,” said Robert Belko.
Laurence died 40 years ago, but the grief is still fresh.
“To think of what he did. He put his life on the line and to have this going on. It’s just not a good thing. It’s not right,” said Robert.
His brother Laurence enlisted when he was just 17 and left West Haven for Vietnam. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.
“He dragged three men while he was under fire and at the time he got wounded. He got wounded in the shoulder and he refused to be evacuated until all his men were safe,” said Robert.
Laurence committed suicide after he came home. To honor him, Robert wanted his name on the West Haven Vietnam Memorial.
“I submitted his name 3 times to the Vietnam Memorial,” said Robert.
It was added, but there was a problem. Belko was spelled as Belco. This dates back to 1990 when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee started fundraising. It finally went up West Haven’s Bradley Point Park in 2000.
“We feel as bad as everyone else does about that,” said Vietnam Veteran David Ricci.
They say they’re not sure when the mistake occurred and they understand his frustration, but promise they’re going to look into it.
“[We’ll] go back in our files to see if we have the paperwork check the spelling. The hardest part is trying to find the person that engraved that,” said Ricci.
They’re all volunteers. Over the past 15 years, they stopped holding meetings, and members of the committee have passed away. They say resources dried up.
“The money that we raised is pretty much all gone,” said West Haven Vietnam Veteran Stephen Carney.
Granite space is gone too with families wanting more names added. Also, they say there are other misspellings.
Ricci said, “I don’t know how they would change that without destroying that piece of granite right there.”
Robert says he’d rather have it wiped away than incorrect.
“Make it blank. Just give me some peace,” said Robert. “As far as I’m concerned it’s a total disrespect of my brother and my brother’s name.”