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Membership Notes, July/August 2021 -   -  

Fall River, Mass., Vietnam Veterans Memorial Dedication

Several years ago, a group of Vietnam veterans discussed the possibility of building a memorial in the eastern part of Massachusetts. In 2017 sixteen people got together to form the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Committee. Six are members of Westport, Massachusetts, Chapter 207: Joe Marshall, the committee chair, Joe Biszko, Harry Terrien, William Desmaris, Alan Sylvia, and Justin Latini, the fundraising chair and the president of Chapter 207.

A local architect designed an eighty percent replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and chose the general contractor. Fundraising began in 2018 and the committee decided on a site for the project, Bicentennial Park in Fall River. The park contains a World War II Iwo Jima monument, along with one honoring those who have taken part in the Global War on Terrorism. It is located near Battleship Cove.

Once the needed permits were in place, the contractors were hired. Most of the labor and material was done at cost. Groundbreaking took place July 2, 2019.

When COVID-19 hit fundraising became an issue. Latini, the fundraising chair, said that, fortunately, significant donations already had come in with the aggressive fundraising campaign that had been conducted. The memorial’s website continued to bring in money from sales of memorial pavers and prints of the official memorial painting, “Forgotten Heroes,” by Brian Fox. Grant writer Nancy Bernier also secured contributions for the memorial, including state and federal funds.

Committee Chair Joe Marshall effectively led the entire effort. John Remedies from VVA Chapter 499 was designated the ambassador to the Wall Committee and helped organize many events the committee members held during the four-year project. Many younger veterans were very supportive and helped with fundraising and other activities.

The dedication took place on May 15 under sunny skies. The Chapter 207 Honor Guard opened the ceremonies before a large audience. With a big-screen TV in the background and an excellent PA system, everyone was able to see and hear the speakers.

VVA National Chaplain Fr. Phil Salois led the opening prayer. Guest speakers included Retired Marine Corps Gen. Richard J Neal and former war correspondent Morton D. Dean. Marshall thanked the construction crew and donors for their time and material needed for the immense project. Several elected officials were in attendance including Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan. Seating was spaced in compliance with pandemic regulations.

Congratulations to all involved in this undertaking. The result is a magnificent memorial wall that will be viewed by generations to come.




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