While addressing the crowd at the Connolly Center during this year’s Veterans Day ceremony, State Representative Joseph McGonagle spoke about the first Veterans Day event he attended seven years ago. During the ceremony that year, McGonagle met then-Brigadier General Gary Keefe of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. “I told the General that one of my greatest regrets was that I never served,” said McGonagle.
However, Keefe had a different opinion. He told McGonagle that his service, while not on the battlefield, was to continue fighting for veterans on Beacon Hill. Most recently, McGonagle has sponsored bills to establish Advisory Committees to oversee the Soldiers’ Homes in Chelsea and Holyoke, assist veterans with finding jobs and giving residents the option of making a donation to the state’s veterans rather than paying excise taxes.
State Senator Sal DiDomenico spoke about how veterans have “liberated the world” while conducting highly classified operations. “They’ve taken on missions that we don’t even know about,” he said.
DiDomenico also said the citizens of other nations feel protected when they see American soldiers. “They know that help is on the way,” he said.
In addition, he said Massachusetts leads the nation in veterans’ services. “There’s not even a close second,” he said.
However, DiDomenico said there is still work to be done as many veterans remain homeless or are suffering from addiction. “We really haven’t finished our job,” he said.
DiDomenico also called attention to the Everett High School Marching Band, which will be performing at the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor next month. In addition to securing $200,000 from the state to help fund the Pearl Harbor trip, DiDomenico announced that he also locked in $50,000 to allow the band to perform in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day.
During his keynote address, Army Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Thomas Ardita said it is truly a calling to be a solider as less than one percent of the American population serves in the military. “Reflect with pride on the service of our veterans,” he said. “No one dislikes war more than the people who have to fight in it.”
Ardita also said finding employment should never be a problem for veterans. “Employers know it’s a smart decision to hire veterans,” he said. “Those who defend us from our enemies must be supported.”
Veterans Commissioner Jeanne Cristiano said many veterans come to her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “They don’t talk about it but they’re changed,” she said. “It’s in those cases that I feel a special calling to help those individuals.”