To the editor:
This is in response to the Oct. 1 letter to the editor “Action needed on Vietnam Memorial.” The letter falsely claims that Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken recommended a location adjacent to the Avis Murray tennis courts for the potential new site of the Vietnam Memorial and falsely claims the mayor has stonewalled the moving of the Vietnam Memorial to a new location.
As the district director of Cape Ann Veterans Services, I would like to provide some clarification into this situation. First, there is no opposition that the memorial should be moved to a more visible area. Rather, there is a disagreement over two potential locations.
The first potential relocation site is next to the Blynman Bridge under the American flag where the Vietnam/Korean War Memorial is currently located. The reason for this location being rejected is due to the high visibility and foot traffic in that location as well as the moratorium on Stacy Boulevard excluding the addition of new memorials. Thus, relocating the Vietnam/Korean Memorial with the Vietnam Memorial currently located at the high school maintains that moratorium. The other option is next to the Avis Murray tennis courts adjacent to the Betty Smith Park. Within that proposed area are the portable bathrooms as well as an area currently under assessment by the Gloucester Department of Public Works for further beautification. Both locations have been proposed by various individuals, the first location has been supported by the family of Lt. Frank A. D’Amico, who was killed in action in Vietnam, and the other location has been supported by the individuals who wrote the letter.
I would like to provide some background on the extent the Veterans Office, the mayor’s office and the veterans community have had in moving the Vietnam Memorial. In 2015, Stacy Boulevard was under extensive renovation. At that time the office approached the four veterans organizations as well as Gold Star families whose loved ones are listed on the Vietnam Memorial. The intent was to suggest moving the Vietnam Memorial to Stacy Boulevard at the location of the Blynman Bridge while construction was underway. This would have provided ample resources for the move. The individuals listed as the Vietnam Memorial Committee of Gloucester opposed the relocation while the veteran organizations and the Gold Star families approved of the relocation. Working with a generation of Vietnam veterans that were so unfairly treated upon their return home, our veterans organizations thought it best to forgo continued pursuit of moving the memorial to prevent infighting between our veteran communities.
Anthony D’Amico, brother of Lt. Frank D’Amico, felt strongly that his brother and all those killed in action in Vietnam should be remembered on the Boulevard, and proposed building a new memorial to honor the 11 men killed from Gloucester. It was agreed upon by all parties to allow Anthony to honor his brother by building a second memorial. After consideration of what a second memorial would do to further divide the Vietnam veterans community, the group known as the Vietnam Memorial Committee of Gloucester, to prevent infighting between the veterans community, changed its opinion and agreed to move the Vietnam Memorial to the first location next to the Blynman Bridge.
Just a few weeks prior to the planned move of the memorial, the group known as the Vietnam Veterans Committee approached the veterans office to discuss why the six flagpoles currently located at Gloucester High School would not be moved with the memorial. The answer was that flags do not withstand the weather well on the Boulevard, the maintenance and upkeep as well as the potential risk of tattered or ripped flags would not be an acceptable practice to honor the Vietnam veterans. A meeting was held with Mayor Romeo Theken, Veterans Director Adam Curcuru, Councilor Melissa Cox, DPW Director Michael Hale, Mike Cody and Anthony Militello, it was agreed that the DPW director would provide two renderings of both locations and a public meeting would be opened to all stakeholders to vote on one of the two locations.
The group named the Vietnam Memorial Committee does not have any standing to represent a committee dedicated to moving of the Vietnam Memorial. As has been misrepresented by these individuals, all stakeholders should have representation in this decision to move the Vietnam Memorial. None of the veterans organization or Gold Star families are represented in the Vietnam Memorial Committee. Mayor Romeo Theken, the Gloucester City Council and the Cape Ann Veterans Service Office all understand and want to see this memorial moved. I have spoken to this group on numerous occasions stressing the fact that we had an opportunity to move the memorial, but now the city has been working diligently to support the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All Vietnam veterans, the veterans organizations in Gloucester and the Gold Star families should have a choice to vote on the two potential locations. This is not a decision that should be made by one group, as we have an estimated veterans population in Gloucester of more than 1,600, of which the majority are Vietnam veterans. The city of Gloucester and its citizens care deeply for their Vietnam veterans, which has been proven time and time again through actions such as the 2015 visit from the Vietnam Wall that Heals and the 2016 50th anniversary commemoration ceremony brunch honoring all our Vietnam veterans, both successful events conducted by a unified United Veterans Council, a voice from each of our veterans organizations. It is not by any means a stonewall by Mayor Romeo Theken’s administration to suggest that given the contention over the two potential locations that this matter be taken slowly to allow the opinion of all stakeholders involved and should not be rushed by a group of the few.
This process rightly deserves the dignity, respect and time needed to hold a democratic vote that represents the opinion of all stakeholders. Unfortunately for the safety of our community this process should be postponed due to the current pandemic and held at a date where all Vietnam veterans and Gold Star families have the options laid before them and the ability to vote on the new location.
Adam J. Curcuru
Cape Ann Veterans Services