FARMINGTON — Acting on a request to place a memorial bench for Justin Crowley Smilek in Meetinghouse Park or another location where veterans are honored, selectmen unanimously voted Tuesday not to accept the donation as offered from his mother, Ruth Crowley.
After speaking with residents and veterans, the majority of those were concerned about the park remaining a site for conflict-specific memorials, rather than person-specific, Chairman Stephan Bunker said.
The municipal park on Main Street has three memorials dedicated to World War II and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.
Crowley's request included a statement engraved on the bench, "In loving memory of Justin Crowley-Smilek, U.S. Army Ranger-Operation Enduring Freedom and veterans everywhere. Donated by Ruth Crowley," said Michael Smilek, Crowley-Smilek's father from Farmington.
Crowley-Smilek was an Army Ranger suffering from severe combat stress from a tour in Afghanistan. He died Nov. 19, 2011, outside the town's Municipal Building after he raised a knife toward a Farmington police officer who then shot him.
After the family received an offer to place a memorial bench for him in a Lewiston park, his mother wanted to purchase and place one in Farmington where he lived, Smilek told the board.
The town park's memorials lack recognition of veterans from the last 10 years of conflict, Lorna Smilek said. The bench would be for all people, all veterans.
Perhaps the wording on the bench could be changed and start by mentioning all veterans of Enduring Freedom and Crowley-Smilek's name below it, suggested Mark Stofan.
If Crowley is willing to donate a bench, another area on town property might be considered, Richard Simcock suggested.
The board needs to act on the request as presented, Selectman Drew Hufnagel explained to the Smileks prior to the vote.
Bunker encouraged the Smileks to not give up but to consider a greater group of veterans and to contact local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion groups where they might find support.