Leaving An Empty Seat In Tribute To POWs And MIAs

Leaving an empty seat in tribute to POWs and MIAs


By Kevin Cullen

November 06, 2012

On this, the most partisan day of the year, here’s an idea we can all get ­behind.

A few years ago, Joe D’Entremont saw an empty seat at a racetrack in Bristol, Tenn. It was left empty on purpose, a symbolic way to remember the 92,000 American service members who since World War I went missing in action or were prisoners of war who didn’t make it home.

D’Entremont — president of the Massa­chusetts chapter of Rolling ­Thunder, a group dedicated to making the government accountable for POWs and MIAs, looked at the empty seat in ­Tennessee and said, “Why not here?”

But you have to walk before you can run. D’Entremont noticed that the color guard that marched onto the field at ­Gillette Stadium during Patriots games didn’t include a POW/MIA flag. So he called up the Patriots and offered them a flag, and they readily agreed. That flag is out there at every game now. The Red Sox started flying a POW/MIA flag at Fenway Park. It took a little longer to get one up at TD Garden, where the Bruins and Celtics play, but eventually goodwill prevailed. If you look around, there are POW/MIA flags at a lot of public events now. Thank you, Rolling Thunder.

Still, D’Entremont kept thinking about that empty seat in Tennessee, so he went back to the sports teams and asked them to give up a seat.

The Lowell Spinners, the minor league baseball team, were the first to sign on. In June, they dedicated a single black chair in Section 104 of LeLacheur Park that will remain empty forever.

D’Entremont was grateful, but he went looking for a bigger venue. On Friday, the Patriots will unveil a seat that will be kept empty at Gillette on Sunday, Veterans Day, and every day after that.

There’s more. D’Entremont’s buddy, Dennis Moschella, president of Veterans Assisting Veterans, got talking last summer to John MacDonald, the vice president of corporate strategy for Lupoli Cos., about the idea of putting up POW/MIA tables in restaurants. MacDonald is an Air Force veteran, and he turned to his boss, Sal Lupoli, and in no time at all, Lupoli said, “Let’s do it.”

“Joe D’Entremont told us he’s had trouble persuading restaurants to do this,” MacDonald said. “Sal jumped in with both feet.”

A couple of weeks ago, they unveiled a table with an empty seat at Salvatore’s, Lupoli’s restaurant in Lawrence, and 300 people showed up. Lupoli wants to leave an empty seat in each of his five restaurants and his 40 pizza shops. Eventually it will get done. And if you don’t think it will happen in all those ­locations, you don’t know Sal Lupoli.

D’Entremont is hoping for momentum. What the Patriots are doing this week sets an example for the Red Sox and the people who run the Garden. Sal Lupoli has set the bar for restaurants.

D’Entremont is a Jamaica Plain guy, and when he went to his local, the venerable Doyle’s Cafe, Gerry Burke Jr. agreed to keep a empty table throughout the Veterans Day weekend.

What if every bar in Boston, in ­Massachusetts, in New England left an empty seat or table?

From that empty seat at the racetrack in Tennessee, Joe D’Entremont is trying to think beyond stadiums and restaurants and bars.

He’s thinking all sorts of public places, places where people go and people talk, where parents talk to their kids. Parks. Schools. Beaches.

“Think about the conversations,” D’Entremont said. “I’d bet that most Americans wouldn’t have any idea that 92,000 service members were POWs or MIAs who never made it home from the wars of the last century. Think about parents talking to their kids about the empty seat. Guys were left behind. They can’t speak for themselves, so we have to speak for them.”

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

Fitchburg Celebrates Its Veterans

Fitchburg Celebrates Its Veterans

By Alana Melanson, [email protected]

WWII veteran Charles Hauler sings the national
anthem to kick off Veterans Day ceremonies Monday
morning at the Fitchburg Senior Center.

FITCHBURG — Veterans, civilians and elected officials gathered at the Senior Center on Monday morning in celebration of all of those who have served the country, from its beginnings to the present, and those who will serve in the future.

“There’s still people out there who want to go after our right to liberty and justice, and it’s just as important today that we fight for the freedoms and liberties that you have,” City Council President Jody Joseph said. “We’ve had generation after generation of people from Fitchburg that have gone off to serve for our country, and for that, I’m proud and very thankful.”

Elected officials who spoke at the ceremony promised continued care and consideration of veterans and their families.

State Rep. Stephen DiNatale, who served in the Navy from 1970 to 1974, implored attendees, as they looked upon the American flag, to “reflect on the ultimate sacrifices so many have made, so that we may live in the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today.”

“They have made the flying of this great American flag possible,” he added.

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas spoke of the changing nature of warfare, which has sent many soldiers on multiple deployments.

“The wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder and the wounds from IEDs are something we are going to be dealing with for many years to come,” she said.

“Veterans, defenders of freedom, you come with memories, stories and tears,” said guest speaker Richard Earley, national service officer for the Vietnam Veterans of America and current president of Leominster Chapter 116. “You mean everything to us.”

He spoke of the long history of Fitchburg citizens and their service to America, beginning with Union Army nurse Martha Goodrich and Cpl. Orlando Boss, who served in Company F of the 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and received the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Va., during the Civil War.

Boss, who is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, dragged a wounded soldier to safety under enemy fire, then appealed to his brigadier commander for permission to rescue his injured lieutenant, and succeeded “despite a torrent of enemy gunfire,” Earley said.

Saluting as the national anthem is sung at the Veterans Day ceremony at the Fitchburg Senior Center on Monday are, from left, Navy veteran Joseph Albert and Army veterans John Anttila, George Pelletier and Thomas Lyon.

Through the present, veterans from Fitchburg, as well as their families, have made great sacrifices in the name of freedom, he said, imploring those present to assume the responsibility of making sure they are both recognized and supported when they are in need.

“These veterans are created by a culture to protect, defend and do battle with our enemies,” Earley said. “On returning home, they all should be honored and re-integrated, or they will be maligned and relegated to the edges of our society. How we view and treat these people has a direct impact on how they thrive.”

Earley said elected leaders must address the issue of war and its consequences, from soldiers killed in battle to those who take their own lives upon returning. Veteran suicide is at an all-time high, he said, averaging one per day.

“One question never asked, as we continue in the longest war in human history, is what is the price of one American life?” Earley said. “We should demand an accounting.”

DiNatale presented Bob and Joan Cayer with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Commendation for their son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Geofrey Cayer, who was killed in combat in Iraq on July 18, 2006, at the age of 21.

Bob Cayer said he and his wife are grateful for the support from the community.

“We not only come together, but we suffer together and we participate together,” he said. “It’s a thanksgiving.”

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alanasentinel or on Twitter @alanamelanson.

11.11.12 At The Wall

Photos from my Veteran’s Day At The Wall.

Slideshow is set for 10 seconds per photo.  Click the photo to advance to the next photo without waiting.

I have published other photos from my Veteran’s Day weekend, see links below:

 “If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.

     Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.

And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.

Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam
Listed as KIA February 7, 1978

The Wall of Healing Prayer

The Wall of Healing Prayer

By Arnold E. Resnicoff

Army Vietnam veteran Dwight Holliday, 62, remembers a fallen friend at the Vietnam Wall in Washington. (Linda Davidson – THE WASHINGTON POST)

Today, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (”The Wall”) is one of our nation’s most beloved memorials. For many it is sacred space: holy ground. For me, it’s the closest America has to the Western Wall (the “Kotel”) in Jerusalem: a place for reflection and prayer; for remembrance and for dreams.

But for Jan Scruggs, the former Army corporal who first dreamed of this memorial, it was not easy to find support to remember a war that had divided our nation; not easy to remember veterans who had died, when we had never properly welcomed home those who had survived.

When Scruggs gathered together a group of veterans to promote the idea – a group that soon included me – there was opposition at every step: no memorial unless it glorified the war; or no memorial unless it admitted the war was a mistake.

Scruggs balanced these competing visions by not creating a Vietnam War Memorial at all; instead, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial would remember the men and women we had sent half-way around the world, many of whom had never made it back home.

Built to heal a nation the Wall would provide a place for all, regardless of feelings about the war, to come together to mourn our dead. And in so doing, to honor those who had survived as well: veterans who still bore the wounds – physical and emotional – of their service.

The Wall did that, and more. By honoring our veterans, it allowed them to tell their stories, and allow healing to begin. One veteran recalled how he had barely started college when a classmate asked him how he had lost his arm. When he told her he was wounded in Vietnam her response was “serves you right.” He never told anyone else he had been in Vietnam…until the day the memorial was dedicated.

Ultimately, what the memorial accomplished was a vision shift for people like that classmate. Before the dedication those who hated the war showed that hatred in their treatment of our military, so that our men and women had to fight two wars: one overseas and one back home. Since the Wall’s creation, most Americans carefully distinguish their opposition to a war from their support for our troops.

I remember being in uniform in an airport during Desert Shield/Desert Storm – when yellow ribbons were displayed as symbols of support for our military personnel. A stranger came up to me, extended his hand, and said “Welcome Home.” My first impulse was to tell him I had not served in DS/DS…but instead I grasped his hand and thanked him. I believed that I was finally being welcomed home from Vietnam.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial helped our veterans, but it had an impact on us all. It changed the way we thought, and so it changed the way we acted, too.

These thoughts drove the prayer I offered at its dedication, thirty years ago. My prayer began by describing suffering: “Almighty God, some 2,500 years ago the prophet Jeremiah cried out with words filled with pain and anguish…words which might have come out of the mouths of our Vietnam veterans, struggling to reclaim their lives…until today. “Why have we been smitten?” he asked, ‘and then for us there was no healing….”

But the prayer ended with hope: “Help us, we pray, make this the beginning of the time of healing tht we all seek…. Let this monument and this dedication forever remind us that we will come together to mourn our dead; we will come together to reach out to our wounded; we will come together…to remember and honor our brave.”

As we commemorate Veterans Day this year, may we join together to reaffirm the words of that prayer.

Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff served in Vietnam August 1969-Aug ust 1970 as communications officer onboard USS Hunterdon County (LST-838) in the rivers of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, as part of Operation Game Warden. His Navy career included more than 28 years on active duty, the final 25 as a chaplain.

By Arnold E. Resnicoff  |  06:58 PM ET, 11/09/2012


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