A half-dozen local veterans of hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq Thursday unveiled a monument in tribute to all residents who served in those conflicts, highlighting the annual Veterans Day observances at Veterans Memorial Park.
Former Selectman Joe Piantedosi, a Vietnam veteran who serves as vice-chair of the Patriotic Holiday Committee, invited the contingent to assist with removing the cloth that covered the granite marker, which was added to a row saluting those who fought during individual campaigns since World War I.
The park has become the focal point for patriotic holidays, said Piantedosi, who recounted its development over the past two decades.
Thursday’s one-hour Veterans Day event was right out of Norman Rockwell’s sketch pad: veterans, some with caps, a few in uniform, intermingled with residents of all ages, with the high school band and ROTC and a contingent of Scouts along the perimeter. The November sun, backed by a cloudless sky, warmed the occasion, as soft breezes dislodged scattered leaves.
Folding chairs, spread widely around the park in deference to pandemic precautions, were almost full, and other spectators chose to stand. Only an occasional motorcycle or single-engine plane competed with the commemorative remarks.
Select Board Chair Margot Fleischman noted that “the impact veterans have on us is often overlooked,” as they apply their skills and lived experience to everyday community life. The challenges of war can “transform people,” Fleischman said, and that often helps build a better world.
State Rep. Kenneth Gordon cited his role as co-chair of a Special Legislative Commission Studying the State Civil Service Law. Currently, the law provides a preference to veterans on exam-based hiring lists for municipal firefighters and police. He promised to personally work to sustain that. “Those of us in a position to fight for you are doing this because you fought for us,” he said.
A highlight of the observance was the “wreaths of honor” ceremony. For 20 minutes, dozens of attendees of all ages paid verbal tribute to veterans, living or dead, in their lives, and attached small flags to the wreaths.
Paul Purchia, chair of the Patriotic Holiday Committee, introduced the feature by saluting “unsung heroes,” the 17 Bedford police and firefighters who are veterans, representing all five branches and reserve components.
Also speaking from the podium were the commanders of the two local veterans organizations that now share a building, Rob Bowes, American Legion Post 221, and the Rev. Al Chisholm, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1628. Bowes encouraged everyone to get to know veterans; Chisholm read excerpts of a thank-you-for-your-service letter he received from his young granddaughter.
Piantedosi explained that Veterans Memorial Park includes individual markers honoring residents and Bedford High School graduates killed in action since the beginning of World War II. Private funds raised for a new park sign were sufficient to pay for the new granite marker and for cleaning all of the stones, he said.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763