Berkshire communities honor service, sacrifices of veterans
SHEFFIELD — Aided by a cane, 92-year-old Massimo Bachetti stood with pride, saluting as the Color Guard stepped forward during Saturday's "Park of Honor" ceremony.
The World War II veteran was impressed and moved by the 100 American flags covering Barnard Park, each representing a local veteran who fought — and some who died — defending the United States.
"It pumps me up. The way the country is going today, I'm glad to be here," said the Sheffield man who served in the U.S. Third Army under General George Patton following the Allied invasion of Europe.
Veterans spanning seven decades were among the dozens gathered at the corner of Miller Avenue and Main Street to dedicate the patriotic display courtesy of the Kiwanis Clubs of Sheffield and Pittsfield and the Sheffield Historical Society.
The Sheffield array of flags will remain through Dec. 4, each star-spangled banner with a yellow ribbon containing information about an area veteran or veteran's organization. The Pittsfield "Park of Honor," dedicated last weekend, will grace Park Square through Nov. 26.
"These are your roots, your family roots, so keep their stories alive," Bob Alden told the crowd. Alden is the adjutant for Sheffield American Legion Post 340.
The ceremony paid special tribute to Vietnam veterans, 50 years after American combat troops were deployed to South Vietnam.
Master of ceremonies, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, read the 27 Berkshire names of those killed during the Southeast Asia conflict.
Manley "Bud" Coon's nephew, Paul M. Cronk Jr. of Ashley Falls, was killed in Vietnam on Nov. 16, 1967. The late Army specialist is among those being honored with a flag in Barnard Park.
"[The flags] are a dedication to those who protect our country — the one percent [of Americans] who serve," the Army veteran of the Korean War told an Eagle reporter.
Saturday's dedication included the Missing Man Table, a semi-official tribute typically on display in U.S. Armed Forces dining facilities. The remembrance originally grew out of concern for American POW/MIA service members in Vietnam.
Vietnam veteran Alan Romeo conducted the Missing Man Table service assisted by his son, Michael, and daughter, Tara, who was wearing her father's Air Force shirt.
"Being here is very poignant; it's nice to see families come together to honor veterans," Tara Romeo said.
Two years ago, her brother helped their dad open up about his Vietnam experience by interviewing him for a special video project.
"Growing up, I knew more [about the war] than other people. It was important he talk about it," explained Michael Romeo.
Nadine Hawver was grateful her father-in-law, Arthur Hastedt, finally spoke freely about his Army service in the Pacific during World War II and Korean War, just before his death four years ago. She said his and other similar stories must live on.
"I don't take lightly the sacrifices men and women make for our country — it's very serious to me," she said, holding back the tears.
The inaugural Sheffield "Park of Honor" in 2016 came three years after Pittsfield Kiwanians were the first in Berkshire County to establish the month-long veteran's tribute which has grown to more than 700 flags in Park Square.
"When I see these flags, I see red, white and blue: colors representing freedom, unity, sacrifice," Pignatelli said. "Ask yourself what the flag means to you."
Reach Dick Lindsay at email@example.com and 413-496-6233.
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