By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – The Hudson Board of Selectmen unanimously voted July 10 to endorse the renaming of the Washington St. Bridge in memory of Kenneth Thibault, a Hudson resident who died while fighting for the United States in the Vietnam War almost 50 years ago.
The proposal will now go to the state, which maintains the bridge, for final approval. As long as the state grants that approval, the town of Hudson will be able to proceed with plans for a formal dedication ceremony set for next spring.
“In the spring, we want everyone to remember that our freedom and our allies come at a very high cost,” said Veterans Agent Brian Stearns. “And [we want them to remember] how fortunate we as Americans are to have true heroes like Private Kenny Thibault.”
Stearns said he anticipates the event will be a sprawling affair, adding near the end of his remarks that he hopes Governor Charlie Baker will attend.
A private first class in the Army, Thibault was one of two Hudson residents who died in service of the US during the Vietnam War. He was killed in April of 1969 after his patrol encountered enemies in the Binh Dinh Province in South Vietnam.
Thibault’s death rattled his hometown, a fact remembered by current Hudson selectmen before they voted to approve the bridge renaming proposal.
“In 1967 when someone died, who was a kid, who was killed in Vietnam, everybody knew,” said Selectman Joseph Durant. He later added, “I remember when he passed away. It was terrible. It left a mark on all of us.”
Hudson has, indeed, named permanent infrastructure after other fallen soldiers in the past.
Seth Michaud, who was killed in 2003 by friendly fire in Africa, had a bridge on Houghton Street named in his memory in May of 2015.
Hudson’s Palmeri Drive likewise was named in memory of David Palmieri, who was killed in Vietnam in 1969, two years after Thibault’s death there.
Having already etched those names onto other Hudson infrastructure, the Board of Selectmen and Stearns agreed that they found it fitting to name one of Hudson’s oldest bridges after a Hudson resident who left his hometown for a warzone a half century ago.
“It’s been fifty years. It’s time,” Stearns said. “It’s well overdue.”