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November 11, 2012

Saluting 'the real heroes'

Veterans hailed at holiday events throughout region

At one powerful point in Gloucester’s Veterans Day ceremonies Sunday morning, a host of Vietnam era veterans stood — called to the front by the master of ceremonies Mark Nestor, himself a Vietnam veteran — faced the crowd as Nestor asked those present to remember their often forgotten service to their country.

“We thank you with all of our souls for the suffering you endured both overseas and on the home front,” Nestor said, as the crowd applauded. “Know now that you will never again be forgotten.”

Gloucester dedicated its Sunday Veterans Day ceremony to Vietnam veterans, as this year marks both the 50th anniversary of the first stepped-up U.S. commitment to that war, and the 30th since the construction of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

Residents and veterans and their families gathered to recognize the city’s veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam — men and women, Nestor said, too often forgotten by a country that couldn’t “separate its warriors from the war.”

Jerris Cook, a Vietnam veteran, retired Gloucester police lieutenant and the principal speaker at the city’s ceremonies, said that it was a war that accomplished very little.

“No one won the war,” said Cook, who served as a sergeant in the Air Force Security Service and spent the better part of two years listening for enemy radio communications. “Nothing much was accomplished.”

Yet, 52,000 U.S. soldiers died in that war — including 11 young men from Gloucester whose names are enshrined on the Vietnam Memorial outside the high school. The war also claimed the lives of more than 1 million Vietnamese.

Cook said he lost friends in his favorite crew to work with in 1967. That crew, he said, was flying low over the Liberty Bridge and an enemy solider was waiting and shot down the aircraft.

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