Mayor Linda Tyer served as this year's keynote speaker.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — She was just a young child but Mayor Linda Tyer remembers watching soldiers returning from the Vietnam War on television.
Her mother had a silver bracelet etched with the name of Francis Edward Visconti, a soldier from Syracuse, N.Y. who was serving overseas. Such bracelets featuring the names of soldiers were worn by women back home and weren't supposed to be taken off until the soldier returned.
On Saturday, Tyer was wearing that bracelet. Visconti still hasn't returned. His helicopter had blown out to sea and the crew has been unaccounted for since.
"Until the end of time, we will honor the more than 58,000 patriots who sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know. These many long years later, we pledge to bring home to more than 1,600 servicemembers who are still among the missing because the United States leaves no one behind," Tyer said.
Tyer was the keynote speaker during the city's National Vietnam War Veterans Day commemoration ceremony. The event was the 43rd put on by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 65, American Legion Post 68, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 448 and serves as a time to remember the 27 people from the Berkshires who died in the war. Pittsfield native Kevin Gerry Aldam was one of those.
The mayor used her 10-minute speech to tell the stories of Visconti, Aldam, and her father's wing commander, Edward B Burdett, three men who went to serve in a faraway land and never returned.
Aldam was born in Pittsfield on Dec. 21, 1949, and was drafted into the Army. He embarked on his first tour of duty on May 10, 1969. He ranked as a specialist four and his occupation was light weapons infantry. He served in Company C, 1st Battalion, 198th Light Infantry Brigade, 52nd Infantry. He died at the age of 19.
"About six weeks later, Specialist Aldam experienced a traumatic event which resulted in his loss of life on June 27, 1969. Reported circumstances are attributed to 'hostile, died of wounds, multiple fragmentation wounds, ground casualty.' Incident location: South Vietnam, Quang Ngai Province," Tyer said.
Burdett had served with Tyer's father. When the mayor was just 2 years old, her father, a lieutenant in the Air Force, was sent to Thailand.
"My dad would watch the sortie take off and he'd count the jets as they left. About two hours later the jets would begin to return and he'd count those, too. Remember, this war was long before we had instantaneous information, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Counting jets was the quickest way to know if some of his brothers would not be returning," Tyer said.
In 1967, Burdett's plane was one of those that never returned. He had gone on a strike mission in North Vietnam and was later captured after his plane crashed.
"His aircraft was hit by fragments, he completed his pass, released his bombs, and made a nearly level right turn to exit the area. His aircraft was on fire. He attempted to light his afterburner but was unsuccessful and the aircraft went into an uncontrollable spin into a cloud undercast. No ejection was seen or parachute was observed," Tyer said.
He was listed as missing in action from Nov. 18, 1967, until Jan. 15, 1968, when there was enough evidence to show that he had been captured.
"Conclusive evidence was received on April 2, 1974, that he had died in captivity on Nov. 18, 1967," Tyer said.
Those are three who never returned. Tyer continued that those who did return home were often faced with an unwelcoming crowd. She said the homecomings for many were painful experiences and that shouldn't happen again.
A volley is released to honor the 27 local people who died in Vietnam.
"We must forever stand without troops regardless of our feelings about the war. Today brave fighters are welcomed home and rightfully honored for their service," Tyer said.
Tyer said the city of Pittsfield will continue to honor veterans and she highlighted to work of the Veterans Services Department that distributes about $1 million in state and local benefits to 300 area veterans. She said the office goes beyond the city's borders to help veterans living in nearby communities.
"It is our obligation, our privileged and honor, to provide that support," Tyer said.
The annual event included the county's various veterans group each laying a wreath by the monument in Park Square for those who died. George Moran read the names of each of the 27 local servicemen killed and the Dalton American Legion Post 155 performed a volley, and taps was played.
Peter Blake also recognized Clark Gable with a plaque for his efforts in helping the VFW light up a tree in Veterans Memorial Park on South Street. The owner of Gable Electric volunteered his time to bring the electricity to the location.
"Clark Gable saw we needed some help with electricity and through his efforts and the effort of his team, he pulled it off for us. We lit the lights last year on Veterans Day," Blake said.
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Pittsfield Continues Tax Classification Hearing Over Free Cash
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
Mayor Linda Tyer says she wants to focus on building reserves.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday continued the tax classification hearing after clashing with the mayor over how much free cash should be used to offset the tax rate.
At the end of a nearly three-hour meeting, councilors and Mayor Linda Tyer were at a stalemate with the majority of the council unsatisfied with Tyer's $750,000 compromise.
"We are taking this out of the pockets of our taxpayers and putting it into the city coffers," Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers said. "I know that's how it works but at this moment we can afford to give some of that savings back."
The original proposal was a residential tax rate of $19.99 per $1,000 valuation and a commercial rate of $39.96 per $1,000 valuation, which holds the residential rate to a 57 cent increase and the commercial rate to a 2 cent increase.
Soldier On knows the importance of having a home and with the near completion of the village for women veterans this sentiment will be accessible to all who have served in the military, not just the men.
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Berkshire County ARC looked back at its accomplishments over the last year at its 65th annual meeting Friday morning at the Berkshire Hills Country Club.
But for one recognition, it went way back - 65 years, in fact, to the founding of BCArc in 1954. click for more