By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – The Marlborough Veterans Council urges residents to remember prisoners of war (POW) and missing in action (MIA) veterans. Despite the rain, a POW/MIA Chair of Honor was unveiled Jan. 10 during a dedication ceremony on the grounds of the Marlborough Public Library.
Commander Wayne Stanley of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 82 served as master of ceremonies. He welcomed everyone with an apology, then quickly put it into perspective.
“Sorry about the weather, but as most of you veterans know, we’ve trained and fought in weather a lot worse than this,” he said. “We’re here to dedicate this site as a sacred place in Marlborough where people will gather to take pictures, and where veterans will gather to share experiences with each other or just stand alone to ponder their thoughts that they can never share with anyone.”
In front of the chair is a plaque headlined, “POW-MIA: You are not forgotten.” The inscription reads, “Since World War I, more than 91,000 service members are unaccounted for. This unoccupied chair is dedicated to the memory of these brave men and women who sacrificed their lives serving this great country – the United States of America.”
Stanley specified each American war and conflict from which there have been POW and MIA veterans.
“Think of those places and the men and women who were taken as prisoners of war or who went missing in action,” he said. “Some of these men and women suffered unspeakable horrors in captivity and some disappeared, never to be heard from again.”
Retired U.S. Army veteran Sgt. Maj. John Poff of Marlborough noted, “A few of those listed as MIAs come back alive; many may never come back at all.”
An invited speaker was retired Brig. Gen. Paul Gregory Smith of Ashburnham. He retired from the Massachusetts National Guard in 2014 after 35 years of service.
Veterans Agent Gary Brown introduced keynote speaker Tim Sullivan, a retired U.S. Navy aircraft carrier pilot. Sullivan was interned as a POW in North Vietnam after he was shot down in 1967 and was held until his release in 1973. Now, Sullivan serves as a Veterans Administration representative at the JFK Federal Building in Boston.
Marlborough Veterans Council President Mike Ferro, who also serves as commander of American Legion Post 132, noted that he gets asked how much the Chair of Honor cost.
“This chair is priceless,” he said. “The price has already been paid for by the POWs and MIAs who gave us our freedom; by them and others who answered the call for this great country.”
Donations for the Chair of Honor were made by American Legion Post 132, its Auxiliary and Sons; AMVETS Post 1980; DAV Chapter 82; Italian American Auxiliary Post 45; Commander Greg Brewster of the Sons of Italian American Post 45; VFW Post 638; Ron and Nancy Dalbec; and Ron Gaucher. Contributions were made in honor of 1st Air Cavalry, and in memory of veterans Pasquale “Pat” Ferro, Bob Page and James Winbush. Anonymous donations were also given.
The Veterans Council considered other locations for the Chair of Honor, but continued searching for an area with more space and visibility. Ferro consulted Department of Works Commissioner John Ghiloni, who suggested the library grounds near other war monuments.
“It’s an ideal spot,” Ferro said. “It’s right on the parade route for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The chair will be decorated.”
According to the program’s website, “Chairs of Honor are currently in Gillette Stadium, TD Garden and Fenway Park along with over 100 cities and towns throughout Massachusetts and now across the country.”