By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – Local Vietnam War veterans experienced a welcome home April 30 that they didn’t get when they returned from serving during a time of political turmoil. Organizing the ceremony came about because of a common concern heard by Adam Costello, director of the Central Massachusetts Veterans’ Service District.
“I heard a recurring theme: ‘We weren’t welcomed home very well,’” he relayed. “Perceptions have changed over time. Let’s try to do it right. We’re here to say, ‘Welcome home – decades later.’”
Costello reached out to veterans and civic organizations within the district he serves, which consists of Grafton, Northborough, Shrewsbury and Westborough. The first ceremony of its kind in the district was planned within seven weeks.
Leading the Vietnam veterans into the cafeteria at Floral Street Elementary School in Shrewsbury was the American Legion Vincent F. Picard Post 234 Color Guard of Northborough. An MIA/POW Chair of Honor ceremony was presented by cadets of the Marine Corps JROTC from Assabet Valley Regional High School in Marlborough, led by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Randolph P. Mann.
The Shrewsbury High School A Capella Choir sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” under the direction of Michael Lapomardo. Boy Scout Troop 114 of Shrewsbury concluded the ceremony by collectively saluting the veterans.
The afternoon gathering began with family-friendly activities including balloon sculptures by “Tony the Balloon Man.” Patriotic themed arts and crafts were offered by Shrewsbury Recreation Department, and face painting by Grafton Lions Club. Carol Ward of Veterans Inc. helped serve refreshments including pizza and desserts.
Supporting the event by attending and covering its costs were state Reps. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston; Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough; Hannah Kane, R-Shrewsbury; and David Muradian Jr., R-Grafton.
For information about the Central Massachusetts Veterans’ Service District, visit centralmassvets.org.
Photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.