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Editorial: Greenfield giving veterans respect, recognition they deserve

  • Veterans in line for food at the Building Bridges luncheon on Aug. 31. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Greenfield knows how to respect its military veterans. Most recently, the Episcopal Diocese of Western Mass. and the local Elks Lodge have been hosting a special program to support and honor local veterans.

Building Bridges is built around a weekly luncheon that provides camaraderie for local vets, but also attracts a range of outreach services. John Paradis, an Air Force veteran and Veterans Affairs official who attended the most recent program, had high praise for what he saw.

“What they’re doing here in Greenfield is special. You don’t see that often anymore. Great credit to the community for doing this,” he noted.

That particular day, WWII Army veteran Ronald Powers and WWII Navy vet Bernard Schatz received homemade quilts from the nonprofit Quilts of Valor Foundation in recognition of their service more than half a century ago.

Every Thursday at noon, veterans are invited to the community meal at the Elks Lodge on Church Street. Only a few people attended Greenfield’s inaugural event earlier this year. Since then, attendance has exploded from maybe a dozen to 60 and 70 every week.

Chet Saharceski, the exalted ruler of Greenfield’s Elks Lodge, said the event has become the hub for all other veterans’ services each week. Last week’s luncheon featured eight area veterans service agencies including Homeward Vets, Community Connection Healthcare, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled Veterans of America, which has given about $1,500 to the luncheon. Several community leaders, many of them veterans themselves, also attended and lent their support to the individual vets and the program as a whole.

The effort and recognition aren't lost, especially on some Vietnam era vets, many of whom felt the sting of homecoming from a politically divisive and ultimately unpopular war, which for many left a bad taste for far too long.

Town Councilor Maria Burge, a Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran herself, recalls being spit on and having things thrown at her in those days. But Building Bridges is changing that, she said. For the first time, this past Memorial Day, Burge marched in Greenfield’s parade, “because I felt safe.” Town Councilors Isaac Mass and Verne Sund, a 21-year Air Force veteran, were also on hand at the luncheon, along with Mayor William Martin, who was a Vietnam War medic.

“It’s very heart warming — the camaraderie, brotherhood — it’s wonderful to see,” said Vietnam veteran Andy Lively.

“This is a great thing. One of the best that has happened in a while,” Sund noted.

“It’s good to see people out there who recognized us,” said Mason Whiting, another veteran. “Everybody is helping everybody, which is a great thing these days.”

We can’t argue with that sentiment. Our veterans, regardless of which war they fought, were placed in harm’s way in service to our country and deserve all the help, respect and recognition we can muster. It’s gratifying to see that Greenfield, a town with a big heart, has come through for them.