The state-owned bridge that spans the Shawsheen River on The Great Road is expected to be named posthumously in honor of a retired local Air Force pilot whose military career was “nothing short of heroic, selfless, and pretty-darn amazing,” according to a high-ranking advocate for veterans.
Legislation designating the Major Barry Allan Seidman, USAF, Memorial Bridge may be signed into law in time to plan formal ceremonies on Veterans Day, said State Rep. Kenneth Gordon, who is shepherding the process.
Seidman and his wife and son lived on Selfridge Road for almost 40 years, beginning after his retirement from the Air Force. He helped run his family’s office-supplies store near the MIT campus until his death in December 2020.
Peter Demarkis, national service officer for Paralyzed Veterans of America, informed Gordon that Major Seidman received the Silver Star for bravery and “36 air medals for acts of bravery, heroism, and valor. Air medals are awarded for single acts of heroism and merit during combat operations. There are not likely many other airmen with as many combat missions or logged combat hours.”
“When we come across service records of someone like Major Seidman that is so exceptional, so rare and so heroic, it’s up to us as a society to recognize it,” Gordon stated. “We need to teach our children about our heroes. And naming a bridge helps us tell this story and provides a reason for people in Bedford to remember that story.”
Gordon said State Sen. Michael Barrett co-sponsored the proposal and is overseeing it through the Upper Chamber “to make sure it is adopted and sent on to the governor.”
Seidman joined the Air Force in 1962 after graduating from Boston University, where he was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. During his deployments in Vietnam, Demarkis said, he logged more than 1,400 combat hours and more than 900 combat missions. Pilots had the option of rotating home after 100 missions.
“One instance of the major’s selfless service was on March 24, 1967; Maj. Seidman continuously flew over three Vietnamese battalions very low to the ground, as to draw the attention and fire away from surrounded U.S. Army units below,” Demarkis related in a memo to Gordon.
“The major’s flybys were successful at providing time and secure passage for the Army units, however, all the while the major was also marking the enemy’s location for successful supporting airstrikes. A great number soldiers’ lives were saved because of the major’s bravery.”
Later in his Air Force career, Seidman was stationed at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH, and Strategic Air Command headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as at the Pentagon working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We ended up in Bedford because we wanted a new house, to be close to Hanscom AFB for shopping, and to a Conservative temple. Bedford ended up being the best place for all of that,” said Valerie Seidman.
Her husband was diagnosed in mid-2017 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which Demarkis said was “a condition attributed to his time in the service. He was still going to work in his wheelchair, after losing the use of his lower extremities.”
“Neither the town of Bedford nor the major’s family were aware of his incredible accomplishments in military service,” wrote Demarkis, who was Seidman’s Veterans Affairs representative. “Barry was very kind and a very humble person and did not speak openly about all the medals he was awarded,” Mrs. Seidman confirmed.
“Having continuously placed his life in harm’s way and having saved the lives of hundreds of US military servicemen, the least we can do as representatives, as fellow veterans, Massachusetts residents, Americans, is to honor this veteran’s family and to show our appreciation,” Demarkis wrote.
Gordon also engineered the naming of the Carlisle Road bridge over the Concord River in May 2018, a memorial to two Bedford High School graduates killed in action in Iraq: Pfc. John Hart and Lance Cpl. Travis Desiato.
“We have many veterans who returned to Bedford. This particular airman had such a distinguished career that I think the story should be told,” Gordon said. He added, “We need to get people to understand Barry’s story because he kept it to himself.”
“He was a wonderful heroic and kind man who also liked to joke,” Mrs. Seidman said, adding, “He liked it best when his jokes elicited a groan.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763