Jean Mariano remembers with pride her son, Jason Lewis, a Navy SEAL, who died in 2007 in Iraq.
Ms. Mariano, of New Milford, joined a cluster of relatives of Brookfield veterans May 14 for the opening of a war memorial exhibit in which her late son was remembered.
"This just touches my heart," Ms. Mariano said, as she held a collage of photographs of Mr. Lewis, who was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor.
"People need to remember these lives, whether they died in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq," she said. "They stood up and did what so many can't."
Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Jason Lewis, 30, died July 6, 2007 in Bagdad when a homemade explosive device exploded beneath the Humvee in which he and two other service men were riding.
He left behind a wife, Donna Tyransky Lewis, and three children -- Jack, Max and Grace.
He was the son of Ms. Mariano and Dale Lewis. He lived most of his life in Brookfield and was a 1995 graduate of Brookfield High School.
"Every year we get together as a town at Williams Park and honor the men and women who died in wars," said Gene Roberts, a member of the Brookfield Historical Society Board of Directors.
"It's a great tribute but almost no one knows who they are honoring," he added. "As a Vietnam veteran myself, it was important to me to put a face on each of the people we honor."
Ms. Mariano honors her son's memory and that of other service men and women by organizing the laying of wreaths on veteran's graves in Center Cemetery in New Milford.
"I have seven grandchildren and when they're there laying wreaths, it's touching," she said. "They will always remember the sacrifices made for their freedom."
Ms. Mariano also takes her grandchildren to Memorial Day parades. She finds it "wonderful" watching them view the parade "through their young eyes."
"Jason loved what he did. From the time he went to school, he was always my little MacGyver," she said, referring to the 1980s ABC television show action hero.
"He was never going to be a 9 to 5 guy," she said, with a smile. "I couldn't be prouder of the way he turned out. He had the right stuff."
"When I go to Virginia, I spend time with his (Navy SEAL) team members," Ms. Mariano said. "They make me think of Jason. They're fine young men like he was."
"I just close my eyes and listen to them talk and joke," she added. "It's like Jason is there with me."
"I just close my eyes and listen to them talk and joke. It's like Jason is there with me."
Jean Mariano of New Milford
Remembering her late son, Navy SEAL Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Jason Lewis