A plaque on the newly dedicated memorial pays tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and the New York Wing aircrew that flew over the devastated World Trade Towers site on a photography mission the next day.
(From left) Lt. Cols. Jacques Heinrich and Warren Ratis, members of the Sept. 12, 2001, aircrew, with Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Merlino at the newly unveiled 9/11 memorial at Long Island Group Headquarters.
The memorial, topped with a piece of debris from one of the felled World Trade Towers.
Photos by 1st Lt. Robert Calviello, New York Wing
Maj. James A. Ridley Sr.
Leroy R. Grumman Cadet Squadron
New York Wing
NEW YORK – Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Merlino of the Leroy R. Grumman Cadet Squadron could have picked a number of projects to devote his time to in pursuit of his Eagle Scout achievement as a member of Troop 200, but a memorial to the victims and heroes of the 9-11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center made the most sense to him.
At a solemn ceremony Wednesday evening, the monument Merlino helped create was unveiled and dedicated at Long Island Group Headquarters in Holbrook – a fitting location for the memorial, made in part of steel found in the debris from one of the Twin Towers after the attack, for it now stands just a few yards from where a three-man CAP aircrew took off Sept. 12, 2001, on a mission over Ground Zero to take high-resolution photographs of the devastation.
Lt. Col. Jacques Heinrich, mission pilot for the flight, said he felt “very, very honored that he (Merlino) even put our names on it.” Heinrich, the Long Island Group’s standardization/evaluation officer, was present for the dedication ceremony, as was his fellow crew member, Lt. Col. Warren Ratis, counterdrug officer for the group and homeland security for the New York Wing. The third crew member was Lt. Col. Andrew Feldman, former communications director for the wing.
Marino told a reporter for 12 News Long Island that the project was “based on the leadership lessons that I have learned through the Boy Scouts and Civil Air Patrol and is dedicated to the sacrifices made by the victims and first responders of those days, one of whom was my Dad.” The cadet’s father, Capt. Richard Merlino, the Long Island Group’s logistics officer, was a member of the New York City Police Department when the attacks occurred.
Also attending the dedication were Col. Jack Ozer, New York Wing commander, and Lt. Cols. Michael Mooney, Long Island Group commander, and Lt. Col. Louis Fenech Jr., group deputy commander, as well as the cadet’s parents, Capt. Richard and Tina Merlino, and his grandmother, Carmen Sanchez.
Members of the Long Island Group, Merlino’s Grumman squadron and the Col. Francis S. Gabreski Cadet and Brian M. Mooney Cadet squadrons were also on hand.
“We are proud to have the memorial being dedicated tonight housed here at the Long Island Group Headquarters, just 50 miles away from where the attacks took place,” said Mooney, the wing commander.
Merlino will receive his Eagle Scout honor sometime this coming fall.