SOUTH HADLEY — The South Hadley American Legion Post 260, South Hadley Sons of the American Legion, South Hadley VFW Post 3104 and the Military Order of the Purple Heart are inviting fellow veterans and public to South Hadley’s National Vietnam War Veterans Day commemoration.

The event will take place at the South Hadley Public Library, 2 Canal St., on Thursday, March 28 at 6 p.m.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and there will be light refreshments.

National Vietnam War Veterans Day recognizes the sacrifices veterans and their families made during the Vietnam War.

The event will feature veteran speakers and special recognition to the honored guests, local Vietnam Veterans.

The event will also honor and remember those service members from South Hadley, Holyoke and Granby with a wreath-laying ceremony and the sounding of Taps for those who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War.

“South Hadley and Holyoke being linked by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial bridge makes that very fitting for a tribute,” American Legion Post 260 Post Commander Brian Willette said.

There will be a special tribute will also be paid to Gold Star families, a family who lost a loved one while serving in the American Armed Forces.

The ceremony will include the dedication of two new Purple Heart town signs honoring Vietnam Veterans that will be placed in both South Hadley and Granby, the two communities were previously proclaimed as Purple Heart towns. Both signs were knocked down and damaged during the winter.

The first sign that will be replaced in Granby is for Lenny Desrochers who did three tours as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam veteran and was wounded three times during the war. He will be in attendance.

The other sign that will be replaced is for Robert Sowinski who was in the U.S. Army and was killed in action around 1968. He was from South Hadley and his family will be in attendance.

Willette explained that each year there is a different theme for the ceremony.
Last year the event concentrated on the 50th anniversary of the return of POWs from Vietnam in 1973.

This year, the event will focus on honoring those wounded and those killed in action specifically through replacing two purple heart signs.

“Our promise is to make sure, especially the ones with names on them of the fallen, that is our monument and memorial to us to those service members,” Willette said.

Willette further talked about how it feels to be able to put on an event each year that honors veterans.

“The first time I was the VFW Post Commander, our first goal was to establish a Vietnam veterans’ ceremony. We did and we’ve done it every year. There’s a large population of Vietnam veterans in our area and for me, I cannot honor them enough.”

Willette served in the U.S. Army for 23 years and received a purple heart.

“For me, this is a very special event that will we’ll never let go. When I went into the army as a young soldier, all of our sergeants, all of our commanders were all Vietnam veterans and they taught us how to soldiers and taught us a little but about life too. Having the opportunity to honor them is my greatest opportunity. This is the best thing I do and means a lot to me,” Willette added.

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