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May 22, 2012

No room for Vietnam? City's Memorial Day plans draw fire over ceremony snub

The city's Memorial Day Parade will take a new route this year.

It begins downtown and ends at the World War II Memorial along Stacy Boulevard — but no longer has a place, officials say, for the Vietnam Memorial, tucked into a nearly hidden exterior corner of the Gloucester High School campus, which had 11 of its own die in the lost war the U.S. entered 50 years ago.

Cut from the official program, the Vietnam Memorial ceremony will be held anyway by Disabled American Veterans Chapter 74, said attorney Mark Nestor, a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. The ceremony will be timed to begin after the conclusion of the official Memorial Day program.

The Cape Ann Transit Authority will provide a trolley to take participants from the World War II Memorial to the Vietnam Memorial, Bob Ryan, general manager of CATA's Operating Company, announced Monday.

"Let's say I have a vested interest in that most of the 11 individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice attended Gloucester High with me," Ryan explained.

Still, the decision to eliminate the Vietnam Memorial ceremony from the city's official program has produced hurt, anger and chagrin.

"Sadly," Nestor wrote in an email communicating the city's decision to veterans and community leaders, "Vietnam veterans for many years labored in obscurity, largely forgotten and ignored by society despite the sacrifices that were made in the name of freedom."

The planned change drew fire from city councilors.

"Totally unnecessary" said Councilor Bruce Tobey.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said Councilor Joe Ciolino.

"I plan on going to the 'other' event," said Councilor Greg Verga. "My personal view is that it would have been nice to keep it part of the official program. At the very least, it would have been preferable that it not be announced last minute that it had been cut."

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