Selectman Michael Case unveiled the signs that will hang at each of the town's borders.
WASHINGTON, Mass. — When Iraq or Afghanistan war veterans drive over one of the Berkshires' most scenic roads, they will know their service was appreciated.
On Saturday, town and state officials dedicated Washington Mountain Road to the veterans of those wars. A sign is now hanging at each of the town's borders dedicating the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Scenic Byway.
"The town of Washington is stepping forward today by distinguishing Washington Mountain Road as the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Scenic Byway, not to honor those wars but to honor those, who with blood, sweat and tears, fought them," Selectman Michael Case said, during a short Saturday morning ceremony featuring veterans groups, Patriot Guard Riders, townspeople and elected officials.
"We are proud of all of our veterans and we want to be on the forefront of helping them reintegrate, move on with their lives and be proud of what they accomplished."
Case, a retired Army sergeant, says not all war veterans were treated with dedications when they returned home. But, such reminders go a long way in helping the returning soldiers overcome the traumas they've experienced.
"I maintain that no person comes back from combat without some form of PTSD. It is just the nature of the beast," Case said. "When Vietnam veterans came home they were shunned. They were ridiculed and even demonized — even from some earlier era veterans groups. There were no accolades or gatherings with friends and family. They simply returned home."
The reception of returning veterans is getting better, he said. Case remembers being greeted with standing ovations from those in the terminal at Logan Airport when he returned home from Iraq.
Unfortunately, not everyone from the Berkshires returned to those ovations.
"The Berkshires have paid a price. All throughout the county we've had soldiers who have been killed in these wars," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli. "This sign will be a constant memory for me and all of the people who travel here about the sacrifices they made."
The state recently finished putting a new coating of blacktop on Washington Mountain Road, which connects the Dalton Division Road/Williams Street intersection in Pittsfield with Route 8 in Becket, and the state Department of Transportation has promised to completely renovate the road
— a project estimated to cost some $10 million.
"For too long, this road resembled a battlefield based on the way some of the potholes were. And I'm glad that now the closest thing it will come to reminding anyone of a battlefield is those signs recognizing the support this community has for those who put their lives on their lines for us," said state Sen. Benjamin Downing.
The road hasn't been fully resurfaced in 40 years and officials have been pushing to renovate it for about 20. The completion of the most recent skim coat gave the town the opportunity to dedicate the major connector from the hilltowns and the central Berkshires.
State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who worked on the dedication when Washington was in his district, also thanked the town for its efforts.
Sheriff Thomas Bowler and Dan Johnson, representing U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, were also in attendance.