Cities and towns across the country are holding events today to honor and remember those who have served our country as members of the military. In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, city officials honored a local veteran for his community service.
Members of the American Legion Riders and the Pittsfield Police Department revved up their motorcycles to lead the parade through the heart of Pittsfield. About a hundred people turned out for the nearly one-mile march from City Hall down South Street to the Peace Memorial on Veterans Way. During a ceremony following the parade, the Pittsfield High School band played the national anthem and Mayor Dan Bianchi made opening remarks.
“Valuable lives were interrupted as they answered the call to do duty,” Bianchi said. “Each one left behind loved ones. People who worried about them. People who prayed for them until they returned safely to home.”
As a part of the ceremony, the Berkshire Veterans Coalition honored Henry Morris as its 2013 Veteran of the Year. Working as a welder, Morris served as a specialist in the U.S. Army’s 5th Mechanized Infantry Unit in the 177th Armored Battalion. From 1970 to 1971 his unit was attached to a tank unit in Vietnam. Silence says a lot as Morris explains he wasn’t actively involved as a veteran until about six years ago.
“When I came home,” Morris paused as he held back tears. “I didn’t get involved for years.”
After persistent convincing by a friend to get involved as a veteran, Morris is now a life member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Post 68 in Pittsfield along with other organizations. Morris says he and others who served in Vietnam didn’t talk about the war when they came home. He adds volunteers in the community are making sure the men and women returning home today are welcomed with open arms even though his generation wasn’t.
“I know when we came home it was an unpopular war so nobody wanted to hear about what was going on or what you did,” he said. “So you just stayed away. You just didn’t talk about it. Nobody wanted to hear about it but, we’re trying to change that. Come on in. If you need help with something we will try to help you out as best we can. If you want to just talk to us, come in and talk to us.”
After being presented with a plaque, Morris called it in an honor, but says it’s not about him. He maintains the award is really for all veterans and those that support them.
“It’s not just me,” Morris said. “It’s not about me at all. It’s about a lot of people who dedicate a lot of spare time to do this.”
In the spring, Morris’ name along with those of the 2011 and 2012 award recipients will be inscribed on a bench at the Peace Memorial on Veterans Way. Their names will join the names of other award recipients dating back to 2001. For Morris, words are hard to come by when describing what Veterans Day means to him.
“It’s a lot of things,” he said pausing. “You look around. A lot of people sacrificed a lot for us to be here. It means a lot.”