Local Marine Corps League continues honoring veterans during pandemic

  • Members of the Bernardston Marine Corps League Oak Ridge Detachment take part in a small Memorial Day ceremony in Gill. Contributed Photo

  • Members of the Bernardston Marine Corps League Oak Ridge Detachment take part in a small Memorial Day ceremony in Gill. Contributed Photo

  • P.J. Herbert, commandant of the Marine Corps League Oak Ridge Detachment, and his service dog, Bear. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 5/28/2020 1:07:03 PM

BERNARDSTON — While towns held small services to remember those who gave their lives serving in the United States Armed Forces on Monday, Bernardston’s Marine Corps League Oak Ridge Detachment has been working to honor veterans for the past two months amid the lasting COVID-19 pandemic.

P.J. Herbert, commandant of the Marine Corps League Oak Ridge Detachment, said that, since April, the local group has distributed meals to veterans, and placed flags on veterans’ graves at cemeteries in Greenfield, Bernardston and Turners Falls. On Memorial Day, the Bernardston detachment hosted a takeout-style chicken barbecue for residents, and participated in small ceremonies in Bernardston, Gill and Buckland.

“These men and women have put in numerous volunteer hours during this pandemic,” Herbert said. “I will go out on a limb and say that not only did they serve in our military, but they are community heroes.”

Between April 4 and May 18, Herbert said members attended five funerals for veterans, noting that the Bernardston detachment lives by the Marine Corp motto “semper fidelis,” which is Latin for “always faithful.” He said the funerals honored U.S. Navy member Fade Bardwell of Whately, U.S. Army Sgt. Harold Snow of Bernardston, U.S. Army member Stanley Malinowski of South Deerfield, U.S. Marine Corps member Peter King of Colrain and U.S. Navy member Arthur Fiset of Greenfield.

Herbert himself suffers from a traumatic brain injury and other physical afflictions from his time in the service. His first two tours were in Iraq in the early 1990s and the Gulf War. He was a counterintelligence specialist whose job was to search for and analyze enemy documents.

In his second tour, Herbert was traveling through the mountains of northern Iraq when he and a group of British Royal Marines hit a roadside bomb. He is the only survivor of the explosion, which caused his brain injury.

During a later tour in Somalia, Herbert saved a Marine who was incapacitated during a battle with Somalia’s militia. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his valor, the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Herbert said residents should take a moment, not just on Memorial Day, but every day, to think of and thank fallen veterans.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated U.S. Navy member Arthur Fiset’s town of residence.


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