CITY OF TONAWANDA, NY ( WKBW ) First there was the popular movie starring Tom Hanks, "Saving Private Ryan," then the Home Box Office mini-series titled "Band Of Brothers," and now...a monument.
Over 1,000 supporters attended the unveiling of a new monument in the City of Tonawanda Saturday. The monument dedicated to several soldiers who were the inspiration for these iconic movies.
Don Malarkey, a World War II veteran and member of the "Band Of Brothers," autographed a copy of the book written about he and his fellow soldiers that chronicled their experiences. It was a war that brought back painful memories of losing his best friend - Skip Muck - a Tonawanda native killed in the Battle Of The Bulge.
Don Malarkey remembered, "I lost him on the 10th of December in 1944, overlooking Fort Belgium...it was the toughest moment in my life."
The book was brought to life in an HBO mini-series. The actor who played Skip was part of the Saturday ceremony.
Actor Richard Speight, Jr. commented, "I have never known war. I have never been subjected to a draft. I have never served in the military as the saying goes, I'm not a war hero...I just played one on TV."
It was Rick Lewis who was determined to create a memorial for the soldiers. He told Eyewitness News, "About 15 years ago I read "Band Of Brothers" for the first time, and I was just profoundly moved by the story."
The war stories of the Niland Brothers: Preston, Robert, Edward and Frederick - also natives of Tonawanda - and the inspiration behind the movie "Saving Private Ryan."
Rick Lewis added, "As I learned more about the Muck and Niland families, I just said to myself we have to have a monument to these people in the City Of Tonawanda."
The monument is being called the "All Heroes Memorial." It sits in Niawanda Park behind City Hall proudly displaying the City of Tonawanda's rich history. It is a history that Paul Niland, cousin to the Niland brothers, remember seeing captured in his father's photo albums as a child.
Peter Niland added, "Eventually as time went on I got older and I came back and I started realizing more of the importance of the war and what these guys actually did...so it was a great deal to see this happening."
As part of the dedication, the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda offered free screenings of "Band Of Brothers" and "Saving Private Ryan."