Ralph T. Basiliere calls it the “Miracle on Mill Street”—that is, the conversion of the pyramid-shaped lot near Plug Pond into Haverhill’s expanded Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Last week, a new granite monument dedicated to the 13 Haverhill veterans who gave their lives during the Vietnam War, went up at the park. Basiliere, appearing yesterday on WHAV’s morning program, said all remaining granite elements will be installed tomorrow morning.
“Wednesday’s a big day. Wednesday, Granite Industries of Vermont is shipping to us four monuments that come in seven pieces. It’s the four education stanchions and a seven-ton, 13-foot-tall obelisk that has engraving on it. I’m not going to reveal what that is right now. Let people come see it, but it honors all of the men and women who fought in the Vietnam War,” he said.
He explained the installation, paid for by the Haverhill High, St. James and Haverhill Trade School classes of 1966, will be virtually complete. While some landscaping will be completed by the end of the month., Basiliere said, for all intents and purposes, the park opens Wednesday night.
“Frankly, I can’t bear to see another Vietnam veteran’s obituary without having this park available to them,” he said.
The project began two year ago when former City Councilor Louis Fossarelli recommended the city’s memorial be moved from near the Basiliere Bridge, downtown, to a new site. That original monument had been permanently damaged by a vandal, but it was moved to Mill Brook Park until its replacement was installed last week. Basiliere said the old monument was solemnly buried on site.
Basiliere said the outbreak of the coronavirus this year slowed fundraising efforts. However, despite the pandemic, Basiliere said he was still able to raise $32,000 in cash and $8,000 in in-kind services this year. A raffle—with a $5,000 first prize, $3,000 second prize and $2,000 third prize—continues until Monday, Aug. 31, when the drawing takes place at 6 p.m., at G’s restaurant, 35 Washington St. Those who wish to buy a ticket at $100 each may call Basiliere at 978-891-2281.
A formal dedication ceremony is planned, working around COVID-19 restrictions.
Unlike the poor reception many returning Vietnam veterans faced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Basiliere said, Haverhill is honoring their service.
“This time, there was no lack of political will. There was no BS. There were no excuses. The Vietnam veterans will get their due,” he said.
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