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Field Of Flags Honors Berkshire Veterans

Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC
More than 500 flags are flying in Park Square in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts honoring area veterans.

More than 500 American flags now fill Park Square in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts in honor of area veterans. The flags will fly for the rest of November.About 75 people wove themselves in between the rows of flags that fill Park Square for an opening celebration of the first-ever Park of Honor in Pittsfield Saturday. The effort was led by the Kiwanis Club of Pittsfield and Chairman Real Gadoury.

“It’s beautiful,” Gadoury said. “It’s beautiful.”

The idea was adopted from a club in Danbury, Connecticut; the Pittsfield Kiwanis Club expected to sell 200 to 300 flags. Now more than 500 fly in the center of the city. As a result, more than $12,000 has been raised for a college scholarship fund for descendants of Berkshire veterans. Tied to each flag pole is a yellow ribbon bearing the name of a local veteran. Military chaplin Steve Williams offered a blessing during the ceremony.

“Especially do we remember today those in whose revered memory these flags are hoisted,” said Williams.

Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi called the field of red, white and blue a moving sight.

“These flags are going to keep the memory of hundreds of local veterans alive,” Bianchi said. “They’re going to keep them alive in a very unique way.  So whether in war or in peace, all who served, served for the principles of peace and they all served for the principles of freedom. We will be ever appreciative to those veterans. Thank you for this wonderful display.”

Tyrone Belanger led the POW/MIA table ceremony, which serves to honor the more than 138,000 service members missing in action or taken prisoner since World War I.

“The glass is inverted,” Belanger read. “They cannot toast with us at this time. The chair is empty. They are not here.”

About 50 volunteers spent the morning making the holes for each flag pole that line the leaf-covered park at the city’s main intersection. During the ceremony, Berkshire Bank announced a $5,000 donation to Solider On. With headquarters in Pittsfield, the non-profit provides housing and aid to 3,500 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Mississippi. CEO and founder Jack Downing accepted the donation.

“Every one of them that put on the uniform, whether they were in the regular Army or reserves, whether they served a month or 25 years, every veteran said to each of us, ‘I will die for you,’” Downing said. “We need to hear that and we need to honor it. Veterans still are not well served in our communities.”

Gadoury, of the Kiwanis Club, assured the crowd flags will fill the park once again next year.

“A lot of veterans upstairs watch us this afternoon,” Gadoury said. “A lot of them are proud of what we are doing.”

With the crowd long gone, Debbie Rawson walked among the flags, whipping in the early afternoon wind. She was looking for a name…Terry Henry. She found it next to the words Coast Guard inscribed on a ribbon tied to a flag in the middle of a row. Holding onto the ribbon, she shouted, “I found it. Over here!” to a man a few rows down. It was her boyfriend’s name. She had surprised him.

“I think it’s outstanding,” Henry said. “I didn’t expect it. I don’t know why I didn’t expect it, but now that it’s here, it’s an honor. It is. So thank you, Debbie.”

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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