Increase in COVID-19 Cases Forces Cancellation of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Dedication Ceremony

Haverhill’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (WHAV News photograph.)

An increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Haverhill has led to the cancellation of planned Friday night ceremonies to dedicate the city’s new Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Late last week, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said Haverhill rose to the state’s moderate-risk “yellow” scale from the low-risk “green” range. He explained increase is largely attributable to contagion within a family rather than “community spread.” Nonetheless, Ralph T. Basiliere, chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Ad Hoc Commission, said it is wise to delay the ceremony.

Basiliere said, “Given the data, and upon professional advice, a ceremony of any sort is untenable and irresponsible,” he said, adding, “I’m not going to risk one human life for a ceremony.”

State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, who represents Methuen and a portion of Haverhill, and serves as the Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, was to have delivered the keynote address Friday. She was a recent guest on WHAV’s morning program.

“I’m very humbled by that. I think that the amount of work that the community has put in to bring this park, and this monument, to the place to where it is. It’s beautiful. It’s absolutely beautiful. And so much community involvement to put this in place,” Campbell said.

Basiliere said the Commission, in conjunction with the mayor’s office, will revisit the matter at the end of the flu season.

The new memorial at Mill Brook Park replaces one established in 1973 near Basiliere Bridge. It moved to the park near Plug Pond two years when a Commission was established to create a more fitting tribute. A new granite monument, dedicated to the 13 veterans who died during the conflict; a seven-ton, 13-foot-tall obelisk; four education stanchions; benches; landscaping; and other elements were recently installed.

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