By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
NORTHBOROUGH – Residents gathered under the American Flag in Ellsworth McAfee Park on Aug. 31 as the town dedicated signs that designate Northborough as a Purple Heart Town.
“As someone who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times, it always felt like home when I came to Northborough,” said former State Representative Harold Naughton.
In an interview with the Community Advocate, Commander of the American Legion Post 234 Rick Currier noted that the dedication was held in a place named after two Northborough veterans who were killed in action. Neil Ellsworth and David McAfee both died during the Vietnam War.
“I’m so proud to be a Purple Heart Town because, when vets come through, they see that [we] care,” Currier said.
During the dedication, Veterans’ Agent Justin Sousa said the Purple Heart dates back to George Washington. It was the first medal that was authorized for wounded members of the Continental Army.
It was then reconstituted in the early 20th century, he said.
“It used to be an award for valor, and now it’s an award if you get wounded in combat,” Sousa said.
Northborough was designated as a Purple Heart Town by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Sousa said this added Northborough as a stop on the nationwide trail.
Eight signs will be posted on main routes throughout town.
The Aug. 31 event featured Purple Heart recipient Major Denny Drewry of Westborough and Leslie and Dan Arsenault, the parents of Army Spc. Brian Arsenault, who died in Afghanistan in 2014. Reps. Meghan Kilcoyne (D-Northborough) and Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough) were also in attendance alongside a number of town officials.
“I would often say of all the towns that I represented in my 26 years in the House, there’s always such a tremendous turnout on Memorial Day and Veterans Day events in the town,” Naughton said.
He congratulated Northborough for becoming a Purple Heart town and “continuing to recognize the sacrifice of those service members with us and gone.”
Naughton, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, opted not to seek reelection to the House in 2020. He was replaced by Kilcoyne earlier this year.
When he was closing out his offices, Naughton found a box he had packed away when he returned from his last deployment in 2015. In that box was a flag that had flown
in the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
Naughton presented the flag to the Arsenaults.
“Sorry it’s so late, but it still means as much as it did at the time,” Naughton said.