Orange board weighs pros, cons of displaying military equipment to honor vets

  • Memorial Park in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Veterans Honor Roll at Memorial Park in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Memorial Park in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2021 5:15:59 PM
Modified: 12/2/2021 5:15:26 PM

ORANGE — Following hesitation about putting an obsolete piece of military equipment on display in Memorial Park, the Selectboard’s representative for the Trustees of Soldiers Memorial has agreed to approach his fellow American Legion members about having such a display on land belonging to Post 172.

Paul Lyman has proposed applying to the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) for a donation that could be used as a static display to honor veterans and the sacrifices they have made throughout American history. In a previous letter to Selectboard Vice Chair Tom Smith, Lyman wrote that examples of donated equipment include tanks, howitzers, mortars and helicopters.

The issue was discussed at the Nov. 17 and Dec. 1 Selectboard meetings. All members say they want to support veterans, but some have expressed concern over where to put such a donation and whether displaying equipment used for war is the proper way to pay homage to those who have served their country in the military.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Lyman explained the Trustees of Soldiers Memorial is in the process of expanding the veterans wall in Memorial Park to include the names of those involved in conflicts that have occurred after the Vietnam War, and he thinks a TACOM donation would be a great way to bring a piece of history to Orange.

Selectboard Chair Jane Peirce, who at the previous meeting questioned whether a static display of obsolete military equipment is appropriate for the town, said she has received a massive amount of input from residents, most of whom say they are opposed to bringing in such a donation.

Selectboard member Andrew Smith, whose father-in-law was a Marine stationed in the Pacific, asked if a donation has to be limited to Memorial Park. According to the Army’s Static Display Program webpage, displays are not allowed at cemeteries, schools and veteran service organizations without a national headquarters. Andrew Smith said he opposes having a static display at Memorial or Butterfield parks, but thinks the Orange Municipal Airport could be an appropriate spot.

“Veterans have my utmost respect,” he said.

Similarly, Tom Smith, who has been working with Lyman on this process, noted he supports a static display, but not at Memorial Park.

Town Administrator Gabriele Voelker reiterated a point she made at the Nov. 17 meeting that Colin Killay, the town’s superintendent of highway, cemeteries and parks, is concerned about mowing at Memorial Park if anything else is added. The park already has seven memorial pieces.

Peirce said she feels strongly about this topic and opposes bringing a TACOM donation to town, especially to Memorial Park, which hosts the Massachusetts Peace Statue created by sculptor Joseph Pollia. The statue honors the men — including six from Orange — who were killed in World War I.

Peirce read the statue’s inscription: “Who goes there, in the night/Across the storm-swept plain?/We are the ghosts of a valiant war/A million murdered men!/Who goes there, at the dawn/Across the sun-swept plain?/We are the hosts of those who swear:/It shall not be again!”

Selectboard member Richard Sheridan mentioned military equipment does not have to entail something used in combat, such as a Jeep.

“I don’t think that would be offensive to anyone,” he said.

Clerk Pat Lussier said the list of possible donations are not necessarily weapons of war and could have been used during peace missions. She referred to the obsolete equipment as relics and said she finds nothing distasteful about them. She also said her husband is a veteran and “there is nothing in his lifetime he is more proud of” than his military service.

Peirce feels a static display at Butterfield Park would be vulnerable to vandalism.

“We can’t protect our bandstand,” she said, “so how do we protect a thing like this?”

Voelker chimed in to say vandalism at Butterfield Park would be guaranteed.

After Pierce opened up the meeting for public comment, resident Bruce Scherer said he feels the park already fulfills its mission of honoring veterans and advocating for world peace.

Heather Heyes thanked Lyman for starting this conversation and said everyone is connected to veterans in some way. However, she believes there are better ways to honor veterans. She said she would be uncomfortable with her children playing at a park with military equipment, albeit obsolete. She also disagreed with Sheridan that a Jeep used in a military capacity does not count as combat equipment.

“I don’t think it would represent the veterans that we’re intending to honor,” she said.

Resident Ann Reed agreed that weapons of war “are not of great comfort to a lot of us,” and a better way to honor veterans and their sacrifices might be to install a plaque inscribed with a Constitutional amendment or some other reminder of the freedoms veterans fought for.

Sally Howe, who mentioned her father served in World War II and his name is commemorated at Memorial Park, said people should consider that the sight of certain military equipment could be traumatic for combat veterans.

An online survey of meeting attendees was conducted in real time during the discussion, and Community Development Director Alec Wade, who facilitates the Selectboard meeting, said nine people were opposed to the idea, three supported it and two (including the Greenfield Recorder reporter) had no opinion.

Lussier then said the American Legion would probably be the most appropriate and logical spot for a static display, and Lyman said he would speak with Legion members.

More information about the Static Display Program is available at bit.ly/3qOd67s.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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