A Fitting World War II Monument

15Nov11

Wakefield's New World War II MonumentA grateful town paid tribute to its veterans on Friday, especially those who fought in World War II, as a huge crowd packed Veterans’ Memorial Common for the unveiling and dedication of the new granite World War II Monument.

The Veterans’ Day crowd, which some estimated at more than 1,000, included World War II veterans and descendants and relatives of World War II veterans who turned out to dedicate a new monument to those citizens of Wakefield, Massachusetts who left home in the 1940s to fight tyranny overseas.

The new granite memorial bears the names of the 2,471 men and women from Wakefield who served their country in World War II, with a special plaque honoring the 72 who made the supreme sacrifice.

Replacing a decaying wooden memorial that stood for decades on the same site, the new granite monument is the culmination of several years of dedicated work and fundraising by a committee of citizens and volunteers led by Phyllis Hull.

WW II Monument UnveilingStanding at the podium on Friday, Hull beamed and the crowd cheered as the covering was removed, unveiling the stately granite monument.

“Today, on November 11, 2011, we dedicate a brand new monument to the men and women of Wakefield who served in World War II,” Hull declared. “The new granite memorial that you see here today assures that the men and women who fought in World War II will be remembered not just for decades, but for generations to come.”

Phyllis HullHull thanked her committee and all who donated money, materials and labor to help build the new monument, especially those who donated pavers for the Veterans’ Walk of Remembrance in front of the memorial. Hull stressed that while town officials provided encouragement and support, the monument was funded entirely through private donations.

“The monument you see before you is here because of people like you,” Hull told the crowd.

Master of Ceremonies Lt. Colonel Fred Marshall of the US Marine Corps introduced a series of guest speakers, beginning with Patrick Glynn, Chairman of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen.

Selectman Patrick Glynn“I am humbled to stand in front of this prominent new monument,” Glynn said, praising the tireless work of the World War II Committee.

“Wakefield is a town that remembers and honors its veterans,” Glynn said. “This very site has always been known as the Upper Common. It is now and will forever be known as Veterans’ Memorial Common.”

Rep. Rep. Paul BrodeurPaul Brodeur called the new monument “an impressive display of Wakefield’s commitment to respect and honor its veterans,” especially those who served in World War II. “They all recognized that there are forces in this world that need to be confronted,” Brodeur said, “and when someone’s freedom is threatened, everyone’s freedom is threatened.”

Rep. Donald WongRep. Donald Wong commended the veterans and “those who worked tirelessly to erect this monument. Thank you to those who served and continue to serve. May their spirit live forever in our hearts and in this memorial.”

Sen. Katherine Clark said, “What a testament. With your presence here today and all the work you did to build this beautiful memorial and Walk of Remembrance, you really make patriotism come alive, It’s inspiring indeed.”

Congressman John Tierney said that the new monument was evidence of the town’s commitment to support and honor all veterans, living and dead.

“All one has to do is look at this wall and all the contributions that went into it,” Tierney said, “to know that Wakefield will make that kind of commitment.”

US Senator Scott BrownUS Sen. Scott Brown said that it was “great to be back in Wakefield.” The 1977 Wakefield High School graduate said that he was impressed but not surprised by the turnout.

“To come here and see this amazing crowd – it doesn’t surprise me at all,” Brown said, “because that’s what’s so wonderful about this community. You are here on a brisk fall day honoring those who have done more than most.”

Keynote speaker Colonel Michael E. Zarbo talked about growing up on Chestnut Street and starting his Army career at Camp Curtis Guild.

Col. Michael E. Zarbo“I will always call Wakefield, Massachusetts my home,” Zarbo said. “I am honored to be here among America’s true heroes whose names are captured on this memorial. They traveled to far off lands to bring democracy to people they never even met.

“This memorial is a beautiful token of your gratitude,” Zarbo added, “and it clearly shows that the acts of these unselfish patriots, their honor, courage, valor, sacrifice and selfless service will never be taken for granted by a grateful nation and certainly not by the citizens of Wakefield.”

Marshall read an email from Wakefield native and former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, General John R. Galvin, expressing his regret that he could not attend the dedication ceremony.

“During all my service,” Galvin wrote, “I never forgot my true home, which is Wakefield.” Galvin recalled that in the 1940s he witnessed the construction of the original memorial to Wakefield’s World War II heroes. “Our town has answered the call right from the beginning,” Galvin wrote.

John EncarnacaoJohn Encarnacao dedicated the Walk of Remembrance “to the memory and honor of all our veterans.”

A member of the World War II Memorial Committee, Encarnacao headed the subcommittee in charge of the pavers for the Walk of Remembrance. He reported that over $153,000 was raised from the 378 pavers that were purchased on behalf of veterans.

Encarnacao became emotional as he described seeing the monument at night just after the lighting was installed.

“Tears came to my eyes,” Encarnacao said. “It was truly a magical moment in my life and something that all future generations can be proud of and inspired by.”

The final speaker was Brigadier General Gary Pappas of the Massachusetts National Guard.

Brigadier General Gary Pappas“This memorial pays tribute to my father’s generation and what they did and what they sacrificed,” Pappas said.

Following the Benediction by Rev. Richard Weisenbach, Pastor of the First Parish Congregational Church, “Taps” was played by Wakefield High School senior Michael Russo and WHS junior Caroline Andrews.

After a three-round cannon salute ended the program, hundreds lined up for their first close up look at the names on the monument and the Walk of Remembrance.

[This story originally appeared in the November 14, 2011 Wakefield Daily Item.]

More photos from the World War II Monument Dedication Ceremony

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