But the attendees were also taking away more than just food and conversation. This first annual picnic was offering a "goodie bag" of wellness supplies and a gift certificate for each veteran who attended.
The meeting will be held noon to 3 p.m. at Reid Middle School, 950 North St. The conversation is part of an ongoing series conducted by the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in its service areas.
That is why it has been a blessing for the office to be able to expand its cache of free items for the 180 to 200 veterans it now serves monthly, including a new endeavor of providing a food pantry led by donations from Big Y supermarkets in North Adams and Pittsfield.
What sets Atwood apart from the many others lying next to him in Hill Side Cemetery are three remarkable minutes in his largely unremarkable life.
Atwood probably didn't think much of those three minutes at the time; most of his contemporaries didn't either. And even the individual who spoke during those three minutes thought "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here."
On average 20 veterans a day commit suicide.
"Veterans are about 6 percent of the population but they are 20 percent of the suicide rate right now. That is something we as a community, we as veterans, we as active service members, can all work on to help those veterans as they transition back into this very strange life," said Darren Bean, the president of the Warrior Thunder Foundation, a non-profit organization who focus on helping veterans from even getting to that point.
The state Senate wants to give veterans the ability to "work off" more of their tax bills through community service.
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to increase the amount veterans can work off from $1,000 to $1,500 in workoff programs.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of names on the Veterans Memorial Wall of men and women from North Adams who served in the nation's wars dating back to World War I.
But city officials know there are a lot names missing from its more recent conflicts.
It was like pins and needles.
That's what Bill Weigle, a World War 2 pilot, told the Reid Middle School eighth-grade class of his flights during the war. He never knew when or if a German fighter would appear near him and shoot him down.
"I did not come here to tell you I'm a hero because I'm not. But we were on pins and needles the whole time," Weigle said.
The war may be long over but Vietnam veterans are still tasked with a duty of making sure no other veterans return home to face the same fight for benefits they endured.
Scott Gagnon served as both he commander of the Dalton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and as the Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars assistance service officer for Western Massachusetts. He knows well the fight Vietnam veterans have endured in just trying to secure proper medical care.
As soon as they saw the sirens coming down Wendell Avenue, the large crowd erupted in cheers: Tech Sgt Shane Willis is home safe.
Willis returned to his hometown Friday night after his fifth deployment overseas. He was most recently stationed for seven months in Kuwait. He was previously deployed in Iraq three times and Afghanistan once. The 37-year-old Taconic High School graduate has been in the Air Force Reserve for 15 years now, joining when he was 22.
The departments were presented with plaques that thanked them "for their unwavering continuous service and support to all within the community." State Police Maj. Barry J. O'Brien, commanding officer of Troop B, was given a certificate of appreciation for contributing to the "advancement of the American Legion programs and activities dedicated to God and Country."
Bags and boxes of canned and boxed foods, quilts, jackets, scarves, hats and gloves, and a thick envelope full of gift certificates were delivered to the Veterans' Office on Wednesday morning from the local court system, thanks to Bonnie Fachini and Tori Wilhelm of the Probation Department.
It was on this day 75 years ago when Roman Sadlowski and Edward Burns, both hailing from Pittsfield, were killed during the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
That morning, December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the United States naval base near Hawaii, killing thousands and sinking battleships. The attack brought the United States into World War 2, with thousands of citizens, dubbed the greatest generation, took up arms to defend the country.
The Veterans Services Office on Tuesday took delivery of nearly 30 bags fillled with warm coats for local veterans.
The donation came courtesy of the Salvation Army and was prompted by a chance meeting between office assistant Tina Samson and Capt. Katherine Corno of the local Salvation Army post.
The Cemetery Commission has agreed that the veterans section in Bellevue Cemetery will remain veterans only — no spouses allowed.
"I was up there and I was reading a lot of those names and a lot of those people have been up there for years," he said. "I don't care if we had 20 acres, and personally, for me, it's hallowed ground and I am against it."
On Friday morning, a small group of townspeople and veterans gathered again for a short dedication observing Veterans Day and the newly refurbished Town Hall facade, largely done by McCann Technical School, that prominently features the American flag-stye honor roll.
"There are dozens of ways to show your support to our nation's heroes and their family members left behind — mowing a lawn, raking some leaves, shoveling a sidewalk, and other great acts of kindness to reduce the burden of the separation," Clark said, adding that for those who are currently away in the military it would give them peace of mind knowing their families have support at home.
The kindergarten class led the way, the preschoolers followed them, with flags held high — and teachers reminding them not to let it hit the ground.
The stood in the cafeteria and looked over a crowd of some 75 armed service veterans and began singing patriotic songs. When they finished, they had handmade cards of thanks to give to each and every one who attended.
Meanwhile, the third graders were going from table to table asking, "would you like more coffee, sir?" The first-graders were
The Park of Honor keeps growing.
In its third year, the Kiwanis Club of Pittsfield has gotten even more flag sponsors and has filled Park Square and even expanded to a park in Sheffield. The organization has sold more than 740 flags in honor of veterans, the profits of which will go to college scholarships for children and grandchildren of veterans.
The Cemetery Commission may allow spouses buried in the veterans section of Bellevue Cemetery.
Commissioner Bruce Shepley asked the commissioners Tuesday during their monthly meeting what they thought about allowing spouses of veterans to be buried in the designated section where veterans are buried for free.
A big driver in the decision is an institutional change in focus at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which in recent years has placed more emphasis on placing homeless vets into permanent housing, rather than using the temporary, transitional beds at “Grant Per Diem” homes like Turner House.