FRAMINGHAM – Fifty year ago, there were no parades when these soldiers returned home from Vietnam.
Unlike previous Veterans from World War I and II who were celebrated, many Veterans of the Vietnam War were judged, ignored, and even attacked.
Many Vietnam Veterans, who returned home with physical and emotional scars, never were thanked for their service.
Yesterday, MetroWest communities paid tribute to 61 of their own who gave the ultimate sacrifice during that war, with the unveiling of a MetroWest Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) in Framingham.
The memorial was the vision of MWRTA administrator Ed Carr of Natick, who served in the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. He was a forward observer and a Vietnamese language interpreter.
Several of the speakers lauded Carr for his vision, but at one point during the program Carr reminded SMOC Director Jim Cuddy this is “not about Ed.”
Instead the day, was about thanking and remembering those who could not be at the dedication among the hundreds in the crowd – those who never made it home from Vietnam.
“It’s never too late to say thank you,” said U.S. Army National Guard Col. Frank Magurn.
He said he knows that there are hearts in the audience that still bare a scar from the war, but that it is a “wonderful” thing to remember the 61 names on the memorial sculpture by Natick artist Jeff Buccacio.
Buccacio said the memorial remembers the 61 men who did not return, and reminds everyone that they are not forgotten.
“Some may have enlisted and others were drafted, but all would become warriors sent to a foreign land where they stood for the honor of our nation and the freedoms we hold so dear,” said Buccacio, at yesterday’s ceremony. “No greater love has any man, for this who gave their lives never to return home to their families or friends.”
Sen. Karen Spilka, who helped Carr secure funding for the memorial, said the moment is a “wonderful way for our MetroWest community to say thank you – thank you publicly, and every day. and it is long overdue.”
More than 58,000 men and 8 women died in Vietnam, but many came home with wounds and scars that would kill them years later.
Sen. Spilka, the daughter of a World War II Veteran, said she knows that “many of the men and women who served in Vietnam, did not always come home to a welcoming, appreciative country.”
She spoke of how the Vietnam Veterans fought a “different kind of war” than previous Veterans. “Often it was hard to identify who or where the enemy was,” said Sen Spilka. “And it was the first time for all of us we could turn the television on, and see the war first hand.”
Fifty years after Vietnam, “we can see what a mistake this was to judge soldiers on the popularity of the war rather than to simply thank them for their service and their sacrifice,” said Sen. Spilka.
“This memorial is placed here at this transit hub so that all can join in honoring and reflecting on our neighbors, who fought and served in the Vietnam War,” said Sen. Spilka. “May it be a reminder that when our country goes to war we must put our philosophical differences and political parties aside and just support our troops with all of our hearts.”
One of the 61 names on the memorial, unveiled yesterday, is Charlie Sabatier Jr., who crew up in Galevston, Texas.
She said that her husband told the producers the night before he was shot, his unit was down to less than two dozen guys, and they had picked him – their squad leader – as the next to be shot or die.
Griffin told the crowd, Sabatier was initially thought dead and put in a pile of corpses by his fellow soliders. He was able to move his hand a little, someone saw it, and they placed him on a chopper, where he recovered in a hospital for more than a year.
After the hospital, paralized from the waist down, Sabatier became an advocate for disabled Veterans.
Sabatier said he had three miracles in his life, according to Griffin. The miracles were “barely survining Vietnam,” marrying Peggy, and the couple’s triplets.
“It is heartwarming to the public’s attitudes towards the Vietnam Veterans changing finally after 50 years … but for many this comes too late,” said Griffin.
She said her husband worried he would be “forgotten.” He worried that people “would not remember the contrbution he had made.”
Having his name here in MetroWest, where he spent so much of his adult life, means he is not forgotten, said Griffin.
Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by hundreds of MetroWest residents.
More than a dozen military color guards were a part of the certemony, including the Lancers, based in Framingham.
Natick resident Rene Rancourt sang the National Anthem, and a black hawk helicopter landed at the MWRTA terminal for attendees to see its role in the Vietnam war.
The new MetroWest Vietnam Veterans Memorial can be viewed by the public, and there is room to add additional names, for Veterans whose death is related to wounds received during his service.
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