Pittsfield Celebrates Veterans Day

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Monday's ceremony was at the Veterans Memorial on South Street. More photos from the parade and the ceremony are available here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — William Sturgeon was glad to see the political and social support when he looked out at more than 100 people gathered at the Veterans Memorial. But he remembers when he didn't have it when he returned from Vietnam.

Sturgeon was the keynote speaker at the city's Veterans Day ceremony. Sturgeon went to fight for the count when he was "young and impressionable" and returned aged in experience and being scorned and ridiculed.

"We were all young and impressionable. They were out to kill, wound or capture us and we were out to kill, wound or capture them. Young people from worlds apart determined to kill each other because both sides thought it was the right thing to do," Sturgeon said.

The generation of watching John Wayne movies and believing the United States was always right went and stopped the spread of communism in the south Pacific. But it came with a price, Sturgeon said.

"For most of us it wasn't long after arriving that we lost the innocence of our youth. Each and every Vietnam veteran has his or her own story when the innocence of youth was snatched from them," Sturgeon said. "The things we saw and the experiences as impressionable young people became embedded in our very psyches for a long time."

The soldiers returned "to the world" to find that they had became the face of a social and political battle about the war. As the nation seemed to have turn on them, they turned to each other to help with post traumatic stress disorder, he said.

"We never knew when the nightmares would come back. Or what would trigger this flood of emotion, anxiety and in some cases sheer fear. In an instance we were back reliving in real time whatever event was emblazoned in our memory," Sturgeon said.

Keynote speaker William Sturgeon told the story of Vietnam veterans.

With only a third of the soldiers from Vietnam still alive, these stories need to be shared, he said, because "patriotism is a learned trait."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Vietnam but in all wars, soldiers have returned home with "wounds that never heal," said Mayor Daniel Bianchi.

"There are injuries that can't be treated," Bianchi said. "No matter how much time passes, some wounds never heal."

Bianchi said he hopes a future mayor can celebrate the holiday with two decades of peace but right now, Bianchi said he "prays" every morning for the generation of soldiers currently deployed over seas. And when they return, the city and the citizens need to take care of the soldiers.

"Many of those who left out beautiful community left young and came back much older, not in age but in experience," Bianchi said.

Following Bianchi's remarks, representatives from each Veterans agency placed a wreath in memory of the soldiers who died.

The celebration concluded with the Pittsfield High School marching band playing taps, the Dalton American Legion Post 155 shooting a volley and Francis Tremblay was presented with the Veteran of the Year award.

Prior to the ceremony, a parade marched from City Hall to the memorial.
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