Namesake of Haverhill’s First Vietnam Casualty Agrees with Monument Change, But Not Bridge

A view of Haverhill's Basiliere Bridge as seen from the Merrimack River. (WHAV News photograph by Jay Saulnier)

A view of Haverhill’s Basiliere Bridge as seen from the Merrimack River. (WHAV News photograph by Jay Saulnier.)

A Haverhill City Council subcommittee meets tonight to discuss relocating and improving the city’s Vietnam Memorial.

As WHAV previously reported, the idea was first presented earlier this month by Vietnam veteran and former City Councilor Louis T. Fossarelli. He told councilors why the existing monument near Basiliere Bridge must be replaced.

“The monument where it is now, you can’t stop and visit. You come across the bridge. Where do you put the car? If you’re of my generation—I’m fortunate. I made it from here to there, but there are a lot of people who were physically, because of their age or injuries, war injuries, can’t walk. They can’t go,” he said.

Fossarelli recommended a small spot at Ginty Boulevard and Main Street that might be more suitable. “It’s in proximity to where it is now. It’s got a green area. It can be decorated, lit up, flag pole, people could park behind it.”

City Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan, who heads the council’s Natural Resource and Public Property Committee, said there may be better spots in other areas around the city. His committee will hear ideas, beginning at 7 p.m., in the City Council office, room 204, of City Hall.

Supporting the idea is the nephew of Haverhill’s first Vietnam War casualty. Named for his uncle, Ralph T. Basiliere said it’s time for a better memorial.

“I’ve long thought that that monument wasn’t quite sufficient for their sacrifice, and it certainly doesn’t recognize those men and women from Haverhill who went to Vietnam,” he told WHAV.

Basiliere, a disabled veteran himself who left the U.S. Marines as a corporal, makes a distinction between the small Vietnam Memorial and the bridge that bears his uncle’s name. “In the 70s, the city fathers and civic leaders thought it was wise and appropriate to name this bridge after my late uncle Ralph Basiliere. We feel that is still wise and respectful to keep that name.”

He explained past efforts to rename bridges must be avoided. “My family would not be in favor of is any move to overturn the legislation which named the bridge.”

His uncle, PFC Ralph T. Basiliere, was killed in action during the war.

“My uncle was one of the many marines in the spring of 1966 who was killed by landmines when the American Marines were caught between the Buddhist uprising and the Communist north,” Basiliere said.

Fossarelli said a new monument will also help ease another injury inflicted on all who served in the war.

“There’s a perpetuation of total disrespect that has gone on since 1972 for Vietnam veterans returning to this country,” he told councilors.