To the editor:
As I stood at attention Memorial Day morning in the shadow of Gloucester City Hall and listened to my fellow veterans read off the names of those veterans from Gloucester who passed away this past year it suddenly struck me that many of them died alone. They were forced to die alone due to the COVID-19 plague that was ravaging this nation.
Not only did they die alone but their funeral and burial was either private with no one present or was limited to a few closed members of the deceased veteran’s family. Their fellow veterans or other citizens who wanted to pay their respects or to honor their lives were denied that privilege due to COVID-19 restrictions.
These were veterans who answered the call of our nation, placed themselves in harm’s way, exposed to violence and tragedy that no one should be forced to do, but they did it because it was the right thing to do. And then they came home, but they didn’t forget what they had seen or what they experienced. They remembered their fellow veterans and gave back to their community and continued to assist their fellow veterans of those wars and, sadly, the wars that came after.
Veterans such as Albert West Jr., who worked tirelessly for the Capt. Lester S. Wass American Legion Post No. 3 and who rose to be commander of that post for many years, insuring that returning veterans were never forgotten and that they had a place where they could be among their fellow veterans during their time of turmoil. To Thomas Glenn, who was always there for his fellow veterans in AMVETS Post 32, who ultimately achieved the rank of department (state) commander but who always had time for those veterans in need of assistance, especially his fellow veterans in the Soldiers Home in Chelsea. He insured they were never forgotten.
To Austin Doerr, the recipient of the Silver Star, who exemplified honor and gallantry, and to Joseph Favazza, a quiet man but one who led by example and reflected the true citizen-soldier and who displayed patriotism and allegiance to our flag through his 75 years of continuous membership in American Legion Post 4.
These are just some of those who didn’t receive the rightful honor and remembrance they deserved. These and thousands of other sons and daughters of this great city must be remembered in our hearts every day and not just on Memorial Day. For they didn’t just defend our country for one day a year but for years, if not decades. We must honor those who have fallen and we remember the freedoms that these men and women sacrificed so much for.
We need to take a moment every day to thank our departed veterans for their sacrifices and patriotism. We need to thank them for putting the ideals of this country first by rising in defense of these ideals and freedoms. We live in a democracy because they fought to defend it.
We owe it to them to honor their memory. COVID-19 prevented us from recognizing this contribution when they died, so we must do it now and always remember the sacrifice that they made during these times of internal upheaval and threats upon our very institutions of democracy that they so vigorously defended throughout their lifetimes.
We must never forget. We owe this to them.
Mark L. Nestor