By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Gisele Giordano, the manager, function coordinator and treasurer for the Vincent F. Picard American Legion Post 234 in Northborough, has always kept an eye on the hall’s Cold War-era tank from her second-floor office window. Recently, however, thanks to an extensive restoration, she has also watched it gather a steady stream of visitors and invigorate the legion’s community.
The tank came to Northborough in 1995, the same year the U.S. military officially demilitarized it. In the decades that followed, the town’s harsh weather stripped parts of its paint and caused streaks of rust to drip down its sides.
“It needed to be painted,” Giordano said. “I don’t know what the requirements are on it but we needed to take care of it. It was ready for a facelift.”
The opportunity for that facelift literally came knocking on the legion hall’s door when Jim Bagdon and other members of the National United States Army Brotherhood of Tankers offered to restore the tank for free. All the legion had to do was buy the paint.
Part of a larger initiative by the brotherhood, Bagdon’s group has spent the last three years driving around Massachusetts surveying World War II and Cold War-era tanks and restoring them. The Northborough tank was the fifth such project in that span.
“When we see these things and they don’t look right, we have to take the torch that was lit by the previous generation and make sure that that torch is still lit,” Bagdon said of his motivations to restore the tanks. “Our generation right now is responsible for doing that. It is very important for us to remember what these things stand for.”
Giordano, who came to the Northborough legion six years ago as the hall was on the brink of closure, has long viewed community-based initiatives like the tank restoration as a way to keep the hall’s doors open. She added that as these projects keep members and passers-by excited about the legion as well.
“A lot of these places are going under because of lack of funds,” she said, “so to see that we’re not only taking care of the inside but that we’re taking care of the outside as well is great.”
Since Bagdon and the National United States Army Brotherhood of Tankers finished restoring the tank earlier this year, she has seen people young and old visit the tank at its perch which overlooks the legion’s parking lot.
“People stop in here,” she said. “It’s like a revolving door. Kids stop in on their bicycles. Families are looking at it. The kids are taking pictures with it. It’s being noticed.”
In addition to the tank, Giordano and other members of the legion hall have spent the past six years working to restore the rest of the hall itself. They bought new TVs, renovated the building’s floors and bought new furniture for their bar.
But as they renovated their building, Giordano and Larry Beatty, the post’s acting commander, had always wished the tank that stood outside of it looked better than it did.
“We’re proud of what we do around here and we wanted that [tank] to be a symbol that looked as good as the work we do here,” Beatty said.
With the restoration now complete, the tank is that symbol. Now, as she still looks out from her office window, Giordano is thankful to the community of veterans who restored it and excited for the community of veterans she serves.
“It just gives them a feeling that people care,” she said. “People still care about the vets.”