SPOTSWOOD–Influenced during a trip to Indiana, Spotswood resident Travis Fryzowicz decided to purchase and donate a Battlefield Cross statue to the borough’s Veterans Memorial Walkway.
Fryzowicz served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to January of 1968 during the Vietnam War. He was medically discharged due to an injury while serving.
“It was just something that I thought was needed at our little memorial … for no other reason than there wasn’t one at our memorial. I am not looking for no recognition, no pats on the back. As a combat wounded veteran we have got to do this,” Fryzowicz said.
Standing about 30 inches high and weighing about 90 pounds, Fryzowicz said the statue is solid concrete and the detail on it is extreme. It has the rifle with the muzzle facing down, with the helmet placed on top of the stock of the rifle and the boots in front. The assembly of a fallen soldier’s helmet, boots and rifle is to signify the battlefield cross, a fallen soldier’s first honor and recognition that he or she has passed.
“Basically, it is not a cross as you would think,” he said of the statue. “They call it a Battlefield Cross if a soldier, Marine or [anyone from any branch of service] gets killed on the battlefield,” he said. “After that battle is over and they regroup at a rear area for the ones that were [killed in action (KIA)] in that battle, they take, if it’s not their own, the KIA’s helmet, boots and rifle, and someone puts it up as the first honor that they are receiving because they were KIA.”
While on his way to his Third Battalion Fourth Marines Association biannual reunion last August in Chicago, Fryzowicz said he first stopped in Richmond, Indiana, to visit his friend and Third Battalion Fourth Marines Association President Roger Kimble.
“So, my wife and I made it to [Kimble’s house] in Richmond and we stayed a couple of nights and he said, ‘Hey, let’s take a ride out to the memorial we have for the veterans here in Richmond.’ … So we drove through it and there was this statue. The moment I looked at it, my wife looked at me and I looked at her and we knew what we were going to do,” Fryzowicz said.
After returning home, Fryzowicz said he started researching the cross for the borough, but could not find anyone in New Jersey, Delaware or Pennsylvania who made such statues.
“So I go online … and I looked in Indiana for someone that makes these and there happened to be a company called The Cement Lady. So I called Indiana, spoke to the gal out there [and] told her what I was looking for and she says, ‘I got 50 of them here,'” Fryzowicz said. “She then asked me where I lived. I said, ‘New Jersey’ and she said, ‘You can’t afford to ship it; [however], we deliver to a place in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. We are going to make a run there in a few weeks.'”
Fryzowicz said after contacting Kings Red Barn in Hatfield, he ordered the statue and in early October drove to pick it up.
He said he and his grandson sanded down the statue to smooth the rough spots. He also purchased a bronze-colored stain and added three coats of a clear sealant to seal the concrete.
A month or so after, Fryzowicz said he contacted the Borough Council and Mayor Edward Seely to ask about donating the statue to the Veterans Memorial Walkway on Summerhill Road.
Once the donation was accepted, Fryzowicz said he kept in contact with Public Works Director John Mayer and his workers to properly place the statue at the walkway.
More than 115 residents attended the American Legion Post 253 and VFW Post 4589’s annual Memorial Day service on May 28, where the Battlefield Cross was introduced.
“We have had a couple of people in town killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of them was [U.S. Army Spec.] Michael Gonzalez just a couple of years ago, and to see this in there, it felt good,” Fryzowicz said. “From the Vietnam era to World War I that are listed [at the walkway] right up to the conflicts that are going on now, it just felt so good that there is some recognition for those [who have] fallen. It just made me happy.”
Fryzowicz has been a resident since 1973. Before he retired, he worked as a carpenter for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
“Fryzowicz is a veteran of the Vietnam War, proving that he along with rest of us veterans choose to never forget those lost. The monument is a welcome addition and sets the tone for the true cost of war,” Seely said.
Seely, members of the fire department, Emergency Medical Services, American Legion Post 253 and VFW Post 4589 were present during the service.
“My wife and I donated about seven years ago a Purple Heart headstone to the memorial as well,” Fryzowicz said.
Contact Vashti Harris at email@example.com.