Haverhill Honors its ‘Hometown Heroes’ with Special Tribute, Marked by Ceremony, Banners

Flags were presented by the Haverhill Police and Fire, Essex County Sheriff’s Department and Haverhill High School ROTC honor guards. (WHAV News photograph.)

Retired Brigadier General John J. Driscoll helped Haverhill celebrate its “Hometown Heroes” Thursday afternoon, describing the “arc of time” that covers veterans from the earliest days of the nation to those serving today.

Driscoll, of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, spoke for the second year in a row as the Exchange Club of Haverhill offered its fourth annual tribute.

“Today, the testaments to those that wear, or have worn, the cloth of our nation and put themselves in harm’s way reminds society that our values are still worth fighting for,” he said.

The tribute included readings of the names of those killed in action and those honored on the 125 light post banners going up in and around downtown Haverhill as described by Master of Ceremonies Ron Carpenito.

“Striking banners now adorn our downtown area, gracing our bridges and line our streets. These banners are brimming with gratitude and will stand tall until Veterans Day, serving as a poignant tribute to the sacrifices made by these brave individuals” he said.

Carpenito thanked Haverhill Highway Superintendent Michael Arpino and his team for installing the banners, honoring city veterans who served. One of those banners represents someone near and dear to Haverhill Mayor Melinda E. Barrett.

“Since this started, I usually buy a banner for my uncle, Austin (Barrett) who served in Guadalcanal. I think it’s a great way to show everybody that you don’t forget the veterans and we don’t forget our veterans,” she said.

The mayor recognized and thanked the Exchange Club’s Hometown Heroes Committee is co-chaired by Jennifer Matthews and Thea Tsagaris.

State Reps. Ryan M. Hamilton and Andy X. Vargas also addressed the crowd in City Hall auditorium. Vargas said Memorial Day serves an important purpose.

“In this moment in our nation’s history, I think memorial days are more important than ever  because it forces us to think about the sacrifices that others have made for us to not necessarily agree on everything as Americans, but to be able to disagree and treat each other with dignity and respect to preserve this democracy that we have because the people who fought on the beaches, who fought in foreign lands, said it was worth it,” he said.

Vargas used the opportunity to point out the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the Hero Act Wednesday, which would provide additional medical, dental and behavioral health benefits of veterans; expands benefits for dependents over the age of 23 with disabilities; increases local property tax exemptions and abatements for veterans; and increases an employer tax credit for hiring veterans, among other things.

City Councilor Ralph T. Basiliere, a veteran who is also a member of the Exchange club read the list of those killed in action, while Haverhill Police Sgt. Kevin Lynch, Haverhill firefighter Timothy Carroll and Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger read the list of this year’s heroes.

Other elected officials in attendance were City Council President Thomas J. Sullivan, Vice President Timothy J. Jordan and Councilors Michael S. McGonagle and Shaun P. Toohey.

The National Anthem was sung by Stephanie Carpenito and the flags were presented by the Haverhill Police and Fire, Essex County Sheriff’s Department and Haverhill High School ROTC honor guards. The bugler was Staff Sgt. Scott Carriere of the 215th Army Band, Massachusetts Army National Guard.

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