SPRINGFIELD — The city’s long serving veteran services director is stepping down from his post after 13 years. Tom Belton’s retirement was announced by Mayor Domenic Sarno and Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris on Jan. 29.

Belton, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who was nominated by Sarno to the position in 2011, submitted his retirement letter a week prior to the joint announcement, indicating that he had already been considering his retirement from service to the city.

Sarno offered praise and appreciation for Belton in announcing the director’s retirement.

“I want to thank Tom Belton for his dedication, commitment and service to our country and our city of Springfield,” he said. “As director of our Veterans Services Department, Tom, a proud Marine, was always the professional and willing to assisting our veterans and their families with the services they are in need of with passion and care.”

Belton, who was named the city of Springfield Veteran of the Year in 2003, graduated from Technical High School and earned two master’s degrees from American International College. He joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school and served during the Vietnam War where in 1968, he was wounded in action and awarded the Purple Heart. He received a meritorious promotion to Sergeant in 1969, receiving numerous awards, merits, medals and campaign ribbons for his service, including the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Belton was discharged from the Marines in 1970.

Caulton-Harris called Belton “a decorated Marine Corps veteran, [who] has served our country and our city with honor and distinction. She added, “He has served as our Director of Veterans Services for almost 13-years, and his passion and dedication to helping our veterans and their families was always his driving force. Tom truly cares for our veterans.

Deputy Director of Veterans Services Joe DeCaro was appointed as acting director for the department before being confirmed by a unanimous vote at the Feb. 12 City Council meeting to serve the post on a permanent basis. DeCaro was initially appointed by Sarno and Caulton-Harris as Deputy Director in 2020. DeCaro, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, previously served as an Investigator for the Department of Veterans Services.

DeCaro thanked Sarno and Caulton-Harris for the designation and also offered his appreciation for the service of the outgoing director.

“I also want to thank Director Tom Belton, a proud Marine, for his leadership,” he said. “It has been an honor to serve as his deputy for the past three plus years. I am looking forward to continuing to serve all of our veterans and their families, helping to connect them with the services they need.”