June 03. 2012 10:42AM
Vietnam Veterans Memorial rededicated
‘Welcome home’ for veterans
By Bradford L. Miner TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER — A steady drizzle forced the rededication of the 10-year-old Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be held under the cover of a nearby pavilion at Green Hill Park yesterday.
Still, the venue was close enough for remembrance and an emotional embrace of the 1,536 names of fallen comrades, the words of those who served valiantly, the flags, and most recently, a memorial to Thunder and the other war dogs who served their masters unfailingly.
Beginning with “Charles Edward Aaron,” and ending with “Nickolaus Charles Zozula,” Lester Paquin put the reading of names by Vietnam veterans into context, stating, “Behold, the terrible price of war.”
The rainfall was heavier as rededication speeches got under way at 1 p.m., with veterans, city officials, state officials and others recalling the “national shame,” the scorn and indifference, the name-calling and protests greeting returning Vietnam veterans.
Speaker upon speaker finished remarks with the heartfelt “welcome home” they never received.
Philip Madaio, president of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a decorated Vietnam vet, said, “Although this memorial especially honors and remembers the service and sacrifice of those from Massachusetts who gave their lives and freedom in Vietnam, it is dedicated to all from the Commonwealth who served their country between 1955 and 1975.
“It is a place to provide a dignified, quiet, natural location for reflection and learning,” Mr. Madaio said.
Mr. Madaio made a point that the Massachusetts memorial was the first to include a monument in memory of the service of war dogs.
He recalled the service of Thunder, a dog that saved his handler’s life, and John Langley, a Vietnam dog handler, said four Massachusetts dogs were killed during the war.
“In a country where heat and humidity were beyond limit, these dogs worked beyond their capabilities, often to the point of exhaustion,” Mr. Langley said.
He noted that dogs were credited with saving the lives of 10,000 service men and women, and for their “unfailing loyalty, most of the dogs were left behind in the country.”
Dolly Sullivan of Princeton, whose son, Capt. Christopher J. Sullivan, was killed in action in 2005 in Iraq, represented the Gold Star Mothers and said the memorial reminded her of the 23rd Psalm, and the passage, “beside still waters.”
City Manager Michael V. O’Brien was commissioner of the Parks and Recreation Dept. when the memorial went from “concept to construction.” He cited the importance of the city’s partnership with state government and the resources that go into providing care and maintenance of the memorial, which he termed “a living, breathing, collective remembrance.”
Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray recalled his role as Worcester mayor for the dedication a decade ago.
“They gave us a gift of service. They gave us a gift of their lives. They gave us an enduring lesson of the importance of separating the warrior from the war,” Mr. Murray told the gathering.
U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester., said that while no one can change the past, it is the responsibility of all to shape the future so that the no other veterans returning from combat are treated with disrespect.
“Thank you. You are all heroes,” Mr. McGovern told the veterans.
Medal of Honor recipient Thomas G. Kelley said the memorial was “a dream come true and a culmination of extraordinary efforts on the part of all involved.”
State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, received applause when he told the crowd, “You don’t have to be a vet to care about them.”
He cited his chairmanship of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, and his kinship with Vietnam-era veterans.
The senator spoke of the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center and how one Vietnam combat veteran, who had not been active, put on his uniform for the first time, the occasion being a parade in Fitchburg.
Berated by a police officer for his unkempt appearance and told he couldn’t march in the parade, Mr. Brewer said the man went home and hung himself.
Mr. Brewer noted that returning Desert Storm veterans were greeted with applause.
“It’s up to us to make certain that for you, veterans of the Vietnam War, we spend the rest of our lives getting it right,” he said.