Landscaper Helps Create Memorial to Fallen Hero

Feb 09, 2016, 10:20 ET from Lehigh Lawn & Landscaping

WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y., Feb. 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- How do you honor a former friend and co-worker who gave his life in Afghanistan as a soldier serving in America's "War of Terrorism?"

You have to look no further than where Old Hopewell Road joins with U.S. Route 9 in Wappingers Falls, NY, for the answer to that— a memorial featuring etched paver stones from local residents, businesses and organizations in the community, as well as a steel beam from the destroyed World Trade Center on 9-11. Ceremonies were held there fourteen years from that day, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2015.

Two boys from Dutchess County, NY, took different paths in their lives, but the few years they did intersect made a lasting impression on Alan Lehigh, who went from mowing lawns as a kid in Wappingers Falls to starting a landscaping business after graduating from high school. Lehigh knew Mark Palmateer casually in school and, later, they would have a working relationship when Palmateer came to work at Lehigh Lawn & Landscaping, which had been launched in 1987.

Lehigh's business has grown over the years and so have the number of his employees and his expertise in landscape design, arboriculture and environmental conservation. Meanwhile, Palmateer, one of nine siblings, worked hard through his twenties and into his thirties, becoming the proud father of a young daughter. But the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, made him believe there was another purpose to his life.

The New York Army National Guard was reactivated in 2003 and would eventually send men and equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan. That was the same year Palmateer would join at the not-so-tender age of 33. Five years later, Sgt. Mark C. Palmateer would become the first soldier in Dutchess County to die in the War on Terror. Two others died with him on June 26, 2008, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan when their convoy encountered improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.

"He just wanted to do his part," a fellow member of his Guard unit in 2004, Sgt. Patrick Donovan, recalled for a newspaper reporter.

Lehigh says, "I wanted to be part of building the memorial" and to make sure Mark Palmateer and his sacrifice were not forgotten. It started when municipal officials came up with a spot for a memorial and Lehigh and his team enthusiastically put their time and talents to work on a seating wall and patio with 4x8 bricks is a circular pathway around the site.  The pavers may still be purchased with an etched message for $100 through the Town of Wappinger as a fund-raiser for the site. An oversized American flag drapes the twisted steel beam, with two military flags on poles flanking Old Glory on a higher pole nearby.

It turns out that Palmateer was also specially remembered earlier last year in Memorial Day services at the Dutchess County War Memorial, honoring fallen local heroes back to World War I. At the site of his own memorial, his memory will be sustained for years to come, thanks to an assist from an old friend.

SOURCE Lehigh Lawn & Landscaping