By Robin Alberti
WALLINGFORD—A gathering Sunday, Oct. 9, in Wallingford was held to dedicate a new veterans’ memorial at Veterans Park. Commander of American Legion Post #52 Tom Truex welcomed community members and honored guests. Chaplin of Post #52, Mark Loseby, introduced Master of Ceremonies Joseph Will, a former U.S. Army Green Beret and Vietnam Veteran. The key note speaker was Colonel Sherman Hunt, a veteran with 37 years of service to our country, having served two tours in Afghanistan and been decorated with over a dozen medals and awards. He remains on duty in the G2 Section of the Joint Force Headquarters at Camp Johnson in Colchester, Vt.
A common theme shared by all who spoke at the dedication was gratitude and respect for those who served our country, in wartime and peace, and to their families who sacrifice so that their loved ones can keep the rest of us safe and ensure the freedoms and liberties we enjoy as citizens of the U.S.A.
Joe Will shared the purpose of such memorials in his role as master of ceremonies. The first memorials were written on cave walls, he noted. Memorials and monuments are there to remind us of something or someone that had an impact and should not be forgotten. The sacrifices made by the brave men and women of our armed forces should never be forgotten. Their families deserve our appreciation and respect as well, for without their support, members of our military would not be able to focus on their jobs, Will continued.
Joe Will shared a story about a farmer, “Old Charlie,” who before he turned the farm over to his son, poured a concrete slab in the middle of his front lawn, and placed his old plow on it. He did it to remind himself of the good and the bad of running a farm and providing for his family. Old Charlie’s wife planted a garden around the concrete slab. She put up lights on the plow at Christmas time. Every farmer and their wives who saw it thought it was great. It was a fitting symbol, a tool of his trade.
Similarly, Will said the use of the howitzer (a weapon used by the United States Army in the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, and the Iraq War) is a fitting memorial, a tool of the trade for the military.
Col. Hunt reminded attendees that all veterans take an oath. They pledge to serve and protect people they do not even know, he said. Many soldiers return from war with both visible and non-visible wounds, and throughout history they have not always been welcomed back with respect and gratitude, he continued. Many who returned from the Korean War were confused and unrecognized. Those who came back from Vietnam were disrespected, misunderstood and even ridiculed. We need to remember all soldiers are following orders, so whether or not you agree with what our military is engaged in, the individuals deserve recognition and respect for what they do, Hunt implored. They fight so the rest of us can enjoy our freedoms, he said.
Back in June of 2014, American Legion Post #52 received permission from the Wallingford Select Board to add a memorial to Veterans Park, located on Route 7 in the town of Wallingford.
Former American Legion Dept. Commander Rick Gray assisted in the process of getting approval from American Legion National Headquarters to be eligible to receive a static display from the Department of the Army. Once approved, Post #52 applied to the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command in Warren, Mich., who provided them with instructions on the protocol. Post #52, wanting to get a 105mm howitzer for the memorial, had to complete many forms. Initially, they were advised that there were no artillery pieces currently available, and were placed on a waiting list. If none became available in the next three years, they would have to reapply.
Good news came in October of 2015, when Post #52 received word from the Army that a M114A2, 155mm howitzer, located at American Legion Post #183 in Parkville, Md., had to be removed because their building was being sold. Immediately Post #52 contacted Adjunct John Carpenter of Post #183 to facilitate the removal of the howitzer and its transportation to Vermont. Per Army regulations, only a certified carrier was allowed to handle the transport, and once it arrived in Vermont it must be permanently secured on a concrete pad constructed to Army specifications. With Vermont’s climate, pouring a concrete slab in November was just not possible, so after much negotiation, the Army agreed to release the howitzer on condition that it be stored in a secure location over the winter. The Legion was referred to a certified carrier, J.R. Loomis Trucking, who handled the transport, and the National Guard and Reserve Center in Rutland agreed to store it for the winter.
When the howitzer arrived in the Green Mountain State on Feb. 4, it was in rough shape. Years of exposure to the elements, the salt air and sunshine, in Maryland had taken their toll, and the artillery piece was in need of complete restoration. As Vermonters do, many folks rolled up their sleeves and went to work, and local businesses donated services, materials, and time. With restoration complete, Ed Fabian provided a tractor-trailer to transport the howitzer from the National Guard and Reserve Center in Rutland to Wallingford. The Wallingford Highway Dept. skillfully maneuvered the 12,800-pound howitzer onto the pad. Then, Kevin Mulholland, who had fabricated a stainless steel mounting system, mounted the carriage permanently on the concrete. With donated materials, Legion members constructed the post and chain barrier.
Through the collaboration of American Legion Post #52, local businesses, and caring and generous community and Legion members, a battered 155mm howitzer was acquired and restored, and landscaping and signage added, aiding in the transformation Veterans Memorial Park into a beautiful space with a piece of American military history as a memorial, that will provide a comforting location to honor our veterans and their families.
Photo by Robin Alberti
Sunday, Oct. 9, the public joined American Legion Post #52 in Wallingford to dedicate a new Veterans’ Memorial at Veterans Park. American Legion Post #52 members and key note speaker Colonel Sherman Hunt, a decorated veteran with 37 years of service including two tours in Afghanistan pose in front of the new plaque and howitzer.