By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – Ever since he served in the U.S. Army’s Green Berets in the Vietnam War, where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered during combat and a Bronze Star for valor, Denzil Drewry has been a staunch advocate for veterans’ rights.
As a Green Beret he served three years active duty and eight in the Reserves. Drewry, who is currently a member of the Westborough Board of Selectmen, has also been involved with several veterans organizations and serves on Westborough’s Veterans Advisory Board and Trustees of Soldiers’ Memorials board. Previously he served as a liaison to veterans for then-Senator Scott Brown.
At heart, Drewry is and always will be a Green Beret and as such, knows that even though his wounds were significant, there were far too many of his other comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice. So when he was issued a special invitation from Major General James E. Kraft Jr., Commanding General, 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), to attend a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to honor late President John F. Kennedy and his commitment to the Green Berets, Drewry knew that was an honor he could not pass up.
On Oct. 19, Drewry and approximately 30 other current and former members of the Green Berets gathered for a solemn ceremony at Kennedy’s gravesite. After the national anthem and invocation, a wreath was laid at the site, followed by a moment of silence. Taps, the Ballad of the Green Berets, and the Army song were then played.
Drewry said it was “very emotional” for him to be at the cemetery.
“It’s so unbelievable, just seeing the rows and rows of white crosses there,” he said. “It was such a moving experience.”
While at the cemetery, he took the opportunity to pay his respects to several who have been laid to rest there, including William Audrich Battey III, the brother of longtime Westborough resident Jack Battey. William Battey served in Vietnam as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. He passed away in 2015. Drewry also visited the grave of Audie L. Murphy, who was one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II, receiving every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism.
Kennedy’s connection to the Green Berets started 55 years ago, in 1961, when he visited Fort Bragg in North Carolina and the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center, home of the Army Special Forces. Shortly after that visit he authorized the “Green Beret” as the official headgear of the U.S. Army Special Forces; the group then took on the name as well.
On April 11, 1962, Kennedy published a memorandum that stated in part that “The Green Beret is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.”
The Green Berets were called upon to serve Kennedy one last time during one of the darkest periods of the nation’s history as they served as members of the Honor Guard for his funeral after he was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. On the day of the funeral, Command Sergeant Major Francis Ruddy removed his own Green Beret and placed it on Kennedy’s grave. This Green Beret is now on permanent display in the museum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Columbia Point, Boston, in memory of Kennedy and the Special Forces soldiers, especially those who gave their lives while in service to the country.
And every year, the tradition of placing a Green Beret wreath on Kennedy’s grave continues.
Drewry is also the chief financial officer for Fishing with Warriors, a not‐for‐proﬁt, volunteer-run organization that helps veterans experience high level sporting events and activities at no cost them. Last fall, the organization took several veterans on a fishing trip to Costa Rica. For more information call Drewry at 508-688-7637 or the organization’s founder, Al Lizotte, at 508-400-5354 or visit www.fishingwithwarriors.us.