Veterans past and present honored in Pittsfield City Hall ceremony
Photo Gallery | Veterans Day Ceremony in Pittsfield City Hall
PITTSFIELD — Candy Munson clutched a pair of properly folded American flags, protected in plastic, that her grandfather Warren "Bud" Maston Sr. flew at his home every day.
Accompanied by her young son and daughter, Munson brought the star-spangled banners to City Hall, where the Veterans Day ceremony was held on Wednesday morning.
Maston, who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, died in May at 89, compelling Munson to carry on his legacy of be a devout attendee of Pittsfield's annual salute to those who served their country.
"He was a very proud Marine," she said. "He attended every [ceremony] — he never missed a single one."
Munson joined an overflow crowd that spilled into the hallway outside the City Council chambers to honor both living and deceased veterans. The ceremony is traditionally held at the Pittsfield Veterans Memorial off South Street, but Wednesday rain forced organizers, the Berkshire Veterans Coalition, to cancel the parade for the first time in years and move the ceremony inside.
Originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, Veterans Day pays tribute to all who have served America home and abroad.
Coalition President Francis Tremblay waxed poetic when he described what is a veteran.
"A veteran is a person who answered the call, entered a war and gave it his all," he said at the podium, flanked by the wreaths various veterans organizations would have laid at the base of the memorial.
Keynote speaker Bernard Avalle said the definition of a veteran is summed up in the oath enlistees take entering the five the U.S. military. The servicemen and women swear to defend, protect, preserve and bear allegiance to America, but the solemn declaration indicates an allegiance veterans have for one another, he said.
"It cements a new relationship, a 'brotherhood,' " said Avalle, who served in the Coast Guard from 1972-76.
"This is evident in such mottos as, 'I've got your back,' 'Not on my watch,' 'Leave no man behind,' and 'Never again.' "
As executive director for Pittsfield Community Television, Avalle urged veterans in attendance to show up at the PCTV studios on Federico Drive to tell their stories for the record, so future generations will know the service and sacrifice they made to keep America free.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi called on everyone to be committed to helping all veterans access the programs and services they need, especially those struggling to overcome the physical and psychological trauma of combat.
"Your bravery and commitment ensured we could live in a democracy," he said.
Wednesday's ceremony also honored Pittsfield's Veteran of the Year. The Berkshire Veterans Coalition name Herman Tyrone Belanger as the recipient of the plaque, who belongs to six area veterans groups — active in all.
A retired Pittsfield postal employee of 37 years, Belanger served in the Marines from 1964-67, including one tour of duty in the Vietnam War.
He thanked his wife, Linda, for freeing him up from some of the household chores on behalf of local veterans.
"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have the time to do the things I do," he said.
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