By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Local veterans, as well as families of those who have since passed on, joined city officials and residents on Oct. 22 as Marlborough unveiled a special initiative to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The project, “Hometown Heroes,” is a series of banners that have been placed on the city’s light poles depicting individual veterans. Each banner honors a member of the Armed Forces, living or deceased, who resides or had resided in Marlborough, and lists their branch of service, dates of service or conflict, and a photo.
Mayor Arthur Vigeant welcomed the crowd in front of City Hall and gave credit to the Department of Public Works who approached the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation to fund the project.
“We got 99 applications and photographs in on time, so these will be on display until Sunday, Nov. 17. The six local veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice are right here in front of City Hall, and the World War I vets are up near the Doughboy statue,” Vigeant said. “The city website will have a list of veterans and a copy of the map for easy reference.”
One of those veterans who is displayed on a banner is Sgt. Alfred Sandini, a radio gunner with the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. Sandini was declared missing in action in 1944 after his B-25C Mitchell bomber crashed after being struck by enemy fire in the Thanh Hoa Province of French Indochina, now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Earlier this year his remains were finally returned to Marlborough, 75 years later, after a positive match was made, using dental, anthropological and DNA analysis.
City Councilman Peter Juaire, the only veteran on the current Council, spoke a few words as well at the Oct. 22 event.
“I am looking at the pride in this community, seeing everyone show up today to honor those who fought, served, or made the ultimate sacrifice. I wondered if we could fill Main Street with banners, and we’ve had to add Lincoln Street and behind Main,” he said. “Let’s get even more for next year. This is just one of the things the city of Marlborough does for its veterans, and I’m proud to be here.”
US Army Air Corps veteran Leonard Tremblay and his wife, Phyllis, were likely the oldest couple in the crowd, as they recently celebrated their 76th anniversary on June 6. He worked on the B52 bomber engines during WWII, and according to his granddaughter, Sadie, attributes his hearing loss to having to work on the engines while they were running.
“We wouldn’t know they had a problem if they weren’t running,” he chuckled.
“They were married during a 5-day pass and because the time was so short, the priest wouldn’t hold the ceremony in the church, so they got married in the rectory,” laughed their son, Michael, who is also a veteran, having joined the Army in 1973, the last year of the draft.
“My dad, my brother Jimmy and I are all near the corner of Main and East Main, but my brother Manny is the first one up on Lincoln Street,” shared Mark Vital, Community Outreach Manager of Marlborough’s Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School.
Vital spent four years in the Army, thanks to an ROTC scholarship, but his brothers and father were all Navy men.
“I couldn’t park my car in the driveway because I wasn’t Navy,” he laughed.
Walter Vital, his father, was an NCO in both World War II and Korea, and brother Manuel retired as a Lieutenant Commander after a 23 year career and two Vietnam tours. Sadly, his brother James was killed in Djibouti, Somalia.
Prior to the unveiling, the Marlborough Fire Department Honor Guard displayed the colors and Cayman Pacific sang the National Anthem. State Representative Carmine Gentile (D-Sudbury) and several Marlborough City Councilors joined the celebration as well.