GREAT BARRINGTON — The families of four veterans who died in Vietnam, World War II and Operation Iraqi Freedom accepted the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty on their behalf at Town Hall on Saturday morning.
"There are so many from our wars who dropped out of high school to fight in our wars," State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli said before presenting the awards. "They gave up Friday night football. They gave up their proms."
Former Berkshire County residents — Vietnam Army veteran Michael C. Whalen, World War II Navy veteran Francesco Baldassarre, and Iraqi Freedom Army veterans Stephen Wells and David Nutt — were honored posthumously by Pignatelli and Maj. Gen. Gary W. Keefe on Saturday. The Medal of Liberty, which was designed to resemble the Purple Heart, was bequeathed on behalf of Gov. Charlie Baker.
Pignatelli told the families that he was named after his father's best friend, who lost his life in World War II.
When Nutt, a 32-year-old Army sergeant and Lenox resident, died in May 2013, Pignatelli missed a vote at the Statehouse to attend to funeral, he said Saturday.
Nutt died when his 5-ton military vehicle, which was cut off by a civilian car, overturned on an Iraqi road. His then-17-year-old daughter, Emily, had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia on the same day.
"I'll never regret missing that vote," Pignatelli said.
Whalen, who was 26 when he died in Vietnam, was not the only man in his family who died in war, his brothers, who are also veterans, said Saturday.
Their brother Donald, who served in the Air Force during World War II, died when he was 19, but the records were lost, according to William "Bub" Whalen.
"I can't think of a family in the Berkshires that has sacrificed more than the Whalens," Pignatelli said. "The sacrifices are real. The impacts on the families are real."