Response to Gloucester Times Opinion Piece: Letters Action needed on Vietnam Memorial
CAPE ANN Office of Veterans’ Services
On Thursday October 1, 2020 the Gloucester Daily Times posted a Letter to the Editor titled Letters Action needed on Vietnam memorial. The letter is written by a group referring to themselves as the Vietnam Memorial Committee, this is very misleading as there is no official group recognized for the Vietnam Memorial. The letter continues to falsely claim that Mayor Romeo Theken recommended a location adjacent to the Avis Murray Tennis Courts for the potential new site of the Vietnam Memorial and falsely claims the Mayor has stonewalled the moving of the Vietnam Memorial to a new location.
As the District Director of Cape Ann Veterans Services, representing the communities of Gloucester, Hamilton, Rockport and Manchester-by-the Sea, I would like to provide some clarification in regards to the situation. I would first like to address the topic of moving the Vietnam Memorial from its current location at the back of Gloucester High School to Stacy Boulevard. There is no opposition that the memorial should be moved to a more visible area, rather there is disagreement over two potential locations. The first potential relocation would be next to the Blynman Bridge under the American flag where the Vietnam/Korean War Memorial is currently located. The reason for this location is due to the high visibility and foot traffic in that location as well as the moratorium on Stacy Boulevard excluding the addition of new memorials. Thus, relocating the Vietnam/Korean Memorial with the Vietnam Memorial currently located at the high school maintains that moratorium. The other option is next to the Avis Murray Tennis courts and is dedicated as the Betty Smith Park. Adjacent to that is the potential second location. Within that proposed area are the portable bathrooms as well as an area currently under assessment by the Gloucester DPW for further beautification. Both locations have been proposed by various individuals, the first location has been supported by the family of Lt. Frank A. D’Amico who was killed in action in Vietnam and the other location has been supported by the individuals who wrote the Letter to the Editor titled Letters Action needed on Vietnam Memorial.
I would like to provide some background on the extent the Veterans Office, the Mayor’s Office, and the Veterans in our community have had in moving the Vietnam Memorial. In 2015,Stacy Boulevard was under extensive renovation and repair. It was at this time the Cape Ann Office of Veterans Services approached the four Veterans organizations Gloucester American Legion Post 3, Gloucester Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1624, Gloucester American Veterans Post 32, and Gloucester Disabled American Veterans Chapter 74 as well as Gold Star Families whose loved ones are listed on the Vietnam Memorial. The intent was to suggest moving the Vietnam Memorial to Stacy Boulevard at the location of the BlynmanBridge while construction was underway, this would have provided ample resources for the move. The individuals listed as the Vietnam Memorial Committee of Gloucester opposed the relocation while the VFW, American Legion, and Amvets, as well as Gold Star Families approved of the relocation.
Working with a generation of Vietnam Veterans that were so unfairly treated upon their return home, our Veterans organizations thought it best to forgo continue pursuit of moving the memorial to prevent infighting between our Veterancommunities, so the idea of a move was then discarded. However, Anthony D’Amico brother of Lt. Frank D’Amico felt so strongly that his brother and all those Killed in Action in Vietnam should be remembered at Stacy Boulevard that heproposed fundraising and building a new memorial replicating a smaller version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC to honor the 11 men from Gloucester. It was agreed upon by all parties to allow Anthony to honor his brother by building a second memorial.
After consideration of what a second memorial would do tofurther divide the Vietnam Veterans community, the group known as the Vietnam Memorial Committee of Gloucester approached Cape Ann Veterans Services again to prevent infighting between the Veterans community to change their opinion and agreed to move the Vietnam Memorial to the first location of Stacy Boulevard next to the Blynman Bridge. The Cape Ann Veterans Service Office then ordered the piece of granite necessary for the base of the memorial where it sits waiting at the Veterans Office for installation.
Just a few weeks prior to the planned move of the memorial, the group known as the Vietnam Veterans Committee approached the Veterans Office to discuss why the six flagpoles currently located at Gloucester High School would not be moved with the memorial. The answer was that flags do not withstand the weather well on the boulevard, the maintenance and upkeep as well as the potential risk of tattered or ripped flags would not be an acceptable practice to honor the Vietnam Veterans. With this current disagreement over the flags the group known as the Vietnam Veterans Committee proposed the location adjacent to the Avis Murray Tennis Courts in which a meeting was held with Mayor Romeo Theken, Veterans Director Adam Curcuru, City Councilor At-Large Melissa Cox, DPW Director Michael Hale, Mike Cody, and Anthony Militello to discuss both locations at the boulevard. It was at this point that it was agreed upon that DPW Director Michael Hale would provide two renderings of the Vietnam Memorial in both locations and a public meeting would be opened to all stakeholders to vote on one of the two locations. Unfortunately between that meeting and the present, the COVID-19 pandemic stalled many operations and has prevented in person meetings as well as forcing the DPW to focus on the immediate needs of the community.
I would further like to point out the self-proclaimed group named as the Vietnam Memorial Committee does not have anycapacity for representation of a committee dedicated to moving of the Vietnam Memorial. As has been misrepresented by these individuals, all stakeholders should have representation in this decision to move the Vietnam Memorial. None of the Veterans organization such as the American Legion Post 3, American Veterans Post 32, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1624, or Gold Star Families whose loved ones where Killed in Action in Vietnam and whose names are represented on that Memorial are represented in the self-proclaimed Vietnam Memorial Committee.
Mayor Romeo Theken, the Gloucester City Council, and the Cape Ann Veterans Service Office all understand and want to see this memorial moved. I have spoken to this group on numerous occasions stressing the fact that we had an opportunity to move the memorial, but now the city has been working diligently to support the community during theCOVID-19 pandemic.
All Vietnam Veterans, the Veterans Organization in Gloucester and the Gold Star Families should have a choice to vote on the two potential locations, this is not a decision that should be made by one group as we have an estimated total Veterans population in Gloucester of over 1600 of which the majority are Vietnam Veterans.
The City of Gloucester and its citizens care deeply for their Vietnam Veterans which has been proven time and time again through actions such as the 2015 visit from the Vietnam Wall that Heals and the 2016 50th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony Brunch honoring all our Vietnam Veterans, both successful events were held by a unified United Veterans Council, a voice from each of our Veterans Organizations. It is not by any means a stonewall by Mayor Romeo Theken’sAdministration nor the Cape Ann Office of Veterans Services to suggest that given the contention over the two potential locations that this matter be taken slowly to allow the opinion of all stakeholders involved and should not be rushed by a handful of the few.
This process rightly deserves the dignity, respect, and time needed to hold a democratic vote that represents the opinion of all stakeholders. Unfortunately for the safety of our community this process should be postponed due to the current pandemic and held at a date where all Vietnam Veterans and Gold Star Families have the options laid before them and the ability to vote on the new location.
Adam J Curcuru
Cape Ann Veterans Services