PITTSFIELD -- Scores of medallion flag holders marking veterans graves in Pittsfield were placed in cemeteries this spring through the efforts of students at Taconic High School.
The more than 60 brass, bronze or aluminum pieces students restored were stolen from grave sites in 2012. Some of the 200 pieces police estimated were stolen from the oldest section of St. Joseph's Cemetery were recovered when there was an attempt to sell them at a local scrapyard.
Unfortunately, the pieces were damaged and were in need of some delicate and time-consuming welding and machining work.
Francis Tremblay, president of the Veterans Coalition and of Chapter 65 of Vietnam Veterans of America, said he thought the medallions would have to be scrapped before he asked David Pemble, a metal fabrication instructor at Taconic High, for advice.
Pemble said he sought permission to make the repairs a student project, and Tremblay, who helps coordinate placement of the medallions and flags on all veterans' graves in the city prior to Memorial Day, received the pieces in time for the annual placement.
"They did a great job," Tremblay said, "and there was a lot of work in that."
He added that the medallions alone, without the stems, cost about $45 each.
Tremblay, who is a retired welder, said the students had to create new fixtures to attach the broken-off stems and had to weld three or four different types of metal to secure them.
Pemble said the pieces date back to the World War I era and include some that mark graves of vets from World War II, Korea, Vietnam or other wars.
"They had to make what we call a new ‘boss' for the back of some," he said. "The machine shop made the parts and we welded them on. It was a lot of work over about a month."
"I feel good about it," said student Jon Herforth. "It felt good because people had destroyed these and it was disrespectful."
Pemble said a half-dozen students in his class and in Mark Lausier's manufacturing technology class worked on the project.
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