AP NEWS

Fitchburg, Leominster Pay Homage to the Fallen

May 29, 2018 GMT

City leaders and residents said thank you at Memorial Day ceremonies and parades Tuesday in Fitchburg.

“We know the price of war. We understand it,” Paul Jornet, a 23-year veteran of the U. S. Marine Corps and JROTC instructor at Monty Tech, told those gathered on Fitchburg’s Upper Common. “As we remember our fallen, we must also remember the horrors of war. We must be able to teach our young about those wars.”

For some the message was close to home.

This weekend marks 50 years since Leominster City Councilor Claire Freda’s late-husband Ronnie Freda was hit by a rocket mortar during the Vietnam War. She struggled with the Veterans Administration to get proper medical care for her husband, who ultimately died in 1997 from war-related injuries.

“After Vietnam, something happened,” she said. “People realized that these veterans are our kids and deserve to be honored like the military before them. They hurt just like them. They were proud just like them. They wanted theirs to be the last war just like them. They died just like them.”

State Rep. Stephen Hay, D-Fitchburg, recalled his father Bud Hay, a Purple Heart recipient, as well as the service of his father-in-law, uncles and the fathers of childhood friends.

“That’s something I never forget, the service and the sacrifice they performed for our country,” he said.

State Sen. Dean Tran, who won the Worcester-Middlesex state Senate seat last year, described his family’s flight from Vietnam to Clinton, Massachusetts when he was a child.

“That boy would embrace the opportunities that every single one of these heroes fought to protect overseas,” he said, before revealing the boy to be himself.

“Their nation today is a nation that is stronger, freer and more prosperous than ever before,” Tran said.

He described “The Brave Act” unanimously passed by state Senate earlier this month. The act would create a days recognizing Gold Star wives and families and offer a variety of benefits to veterans.

Arthur Elbthal, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, asked people at the Leominster ceremony at Carter Park to not only use Memorial Day to remember, but to celebrate.

“On Memorial Day let’s celebrate the promise of what this country means to each and every one of us: to live in freedom,” “If we could imagine for a moment that just one of those one million men and women were back here with us today, that they would see a free people, they would see us exercising our liberties and pursuing that happiness. They would say, damn right, this is what I fought for.”

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @DobbinsSentinel