by Susan Mikula Campbell
The grief, the pride and the memories are still alive for the family of Army Spc. Alan N. Dikcis.
The 21-year-old Wheatfield resident was killed on March 5, 2010, in Afghanistan while on a mission to recover another vehicle that had been blown up on the roadway in Kandahar. Dikcis had been deployed to Afghanistan the previous July.
Thanks to the cooperative efforts of State Sen. George Maziarz, County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross and Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe, signs designating a portion of Walmore Road in Wheatfield as the Spc. Alan N. Dikcis Memorial Highway will be put in place. One sign will be at Walmore Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard, near the Dikcis home; the other at the corner of Walmore and Lockport roads, not far from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station where Dikcis' body was brought home.
"We couldn't think of a more fitting honor for the young man," said Maziarz, who with Cliffe personally met with the family to discuss the possibilities.
"It is not a renaming of the street; rather a recognition of the commitment and sacrifice which Alan made for his country," Cliffe said of the new signage that will co-exist with the Walmore Road signs.
A ceremony dedicating the signs will be held at 10:45 a.m. Aug. 24 during the Wheatfield Town Picnic at Fairmount Park.
"I think it's great the local community respects our family enough to do this for us," said E4 Spc. Thomas Cannuli. Cannuli, who now has been with the Army for seven years, was serving in Iraq when the news arrived that his older by one year brother from his blended family had been killed.
"I literally had just talked to him a day or two before he was killed, and honestly, it still doesn't feel real," said Cannuli. Both brothers had been due home on leave and were joking about who would get the bed and who would have the sleeping bag in the spare bedroom.
"Every time I see a yellow motorcycle, I think it's him," said Cannuli. "Every once in a while, Dad catches himself. ..."
New parts had come in for the motorcycle and Bob Dikcis was planning to work on it with his son.
Today, the Dikcis' front yard contains a mini memorial to Alan. There are flowers and a small marker, plus a flagpole that the youngest Dikcis, Robert, helped paint with Wheatfield Cub Scout Troop 833 so a flag could always fly in his late brother's honor.
Robert and Dikcis' daughter, Sophia Brown, who was only 3 when her father was killed, have been attending a special day camp for military children at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station this week.
Sophia, who will be 8 in September, is "definitely a handful, just like him," said Gigi Dikcis, Alan's stepmother. Sometimes expressions that Sophia makes are eerie reminders of her father.
Life goes on, but the family is thrilled by the idea of the signs in recognition for its lost son.
As Bob Dikcis said just days after Alan's death: "He sacrificed his life for his country, what more could you say about someone. ... He was a son a father could be proud of in every way."
The Gold Star family of Army Spc. Alan N. Dikcis is helping make sure the needs of veterans and returning troops are met by hosting a special event to benefit the non-profit Western New York Heroes Inc.
The Motorcycle Cruise Night and basket auction will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 11 at VOZ Cycle City, 3287 Niagara Falls Blvd., Wheatfield.
Basket donations will be accepted up to the day of the event.
Army Spc. Alan N. Dikcis