Legislators Receive Tour of New Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Thanks for Bringing in State Grants

From left to right, Reps. Leonard Mirra and Christina A. Minicucci, Sen. Diana DiZoglio, Rep. Andy X. Vargas, Commission Chairman Ralph T. Basiliere and then-Haverhill Veterans Service Officer Luis Santiago in 2020. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill’s Beacon Hill delegation, responsible for securing $65,000 in state money for the city’s new Vietnam Veterans Memorial, received a special tour of Mill Brook Park Friday morning.

Ralph T. Basiliere, chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Ad Hoc Commission, welcomed Sen. Diana DiZoglio and Reps. Leonard Mirra, Andy X. Vargas and Christina A. Minicucci. He thanked the delegation for winning a state allocation for the project.

“What we envisioned here was to make a space where Vietnam veterans could feel the respect of their local government, they could have a park of their own and they could feel the love of their neighbors in a peaceful setting. I believe we have achieved that,” Basiliere said.

Joining the group were Haverhill City Council President Melinda E. Barrett and city Veterans Services Officer Luis Santiago. Rep. Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen, who could not be present, was also thanked.

DiZoglio thanked her colleagues for supporting the state grant and singled out Basiliere for his leadership.

“I want to say thank you as the granddaughter of a Vietnam veteran for all that you continue to do to rase awareness about the need to continue to support and honor our local veterans’ population. You’ve been a true hero for the veterans and their families and our community Ralph, so a huge thank you,” she said.

Basiliere also praised fellow Commissioner Fred Clark, a landscape architect, for donating the design of the park. Those elements include a new granite monument dedicated to the 13 Haverhill veterans who gave their lives during the Vietnam War, a 13-foot-tall, seven-ton obelisk honoring all who served, four education stanchions, granite benches, brick walkways and other features. The value of Clark’s donation was estimated at between $30,000 and $35,000.

As a former marine, Basiliere said, he is a contingency planner—a skill he said he believed would come in handy when the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to reduce donations. Basiliere said he expected to be forced to cut certain elements from the memorial, such as education stations and trees, when additional state grant money arrived and donors kept stepping up. As it turns out, he explained, there is an extra $40,000 that can be set aside for maintenance.

As if there wasn’t enough bad news in 2020, Basiliere said, new tree plantings were threatened by drought conditions this summer. Each tree, which cost $850 a piece, was saved through a drought hardening program.

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