FITCHBURG — As the city paused to honor the sacrifices made by veterans past and present, the message of prioritizing care for them and their families did not fall on deaf ears.
On Thursday morning, retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Bronson took the Senior Center podium for the keynote address. Bronson appeared to be fighting back emotion as he described the internal conflicts many veterans are still resolving.
“The truth is that post traumatic stress is the normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Every day. They are not broken or beyond our help, we just have to somehow find a way for them to believe in themselves,” Bronson said. “Every day we lose another 22 veterans and service members that found the internal battles they continue to fight more than they can bear. It’s up to all of us to address this national crisis in the United States of America, and there’s nothing that we can accomplish when we work together, we can fix this, we just have to make it this top priority. We owe it to all of them.”
Bronson said he would not use the word “disorder” to describe “post traumatic stress.” A nurse at a DAV convention a number of years ago taught Bronson when the ‘D’ is used as part of the acronym, it can be attributed to any word people choose. Those other words can include “damaged, dangerous or some even worse,” Bronson said.
Addressing mental health care for veterans is something Bronson urged all in attendance to work together on.
For State Sen. John Cronin (D-Lunenburg) the ceremony was an opportunity to remember the sacrifice of all who have served and a chance to “rededicate ourselves” to providing adequate care for them and their families.
Cronin, a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, recalled the lessons his military service taught him.
“One of the greatest gifts that you receive from serving your country and serving in the military is a common purpose, being a part of something bigger than yourself. The most gratifying part of my own service serving in the Army and serving in Afghanistan, especially in retrospect, was being a part of the best team in the world,” Cronin said. “People from every state, every race, every gender, every background, every religion, every creed, every political ideology. We serve together, we work together, and we always place the mission first. It is hard to be a part of a team like that and ever become cynical about your country.”
Mayor Stephen DiNatale spoke of the importance of never forgetting the contributions veterans have made and stressed it is incumbent upon civilians to honor their sacrifices.
“There are many tangible ways that we can acknowledge this sacrifice. But the easiest is to simply say thank you for what you’ve done, and continue to do for our country,” DiNatale said.
As part of Thursday’s ceremony, to Army Vietnam Veteran William Saladini received the Veterans’ Council Appreciation Award. Saladini was presented the award by George LeBlanc who said it went to him for his advocacy for the veterans’ council and his involvement with the organization’s numerous fundraisers.
Judith Lyle received the Veterans’ Council Appreciation Award for a civilian for her commitment to the organization’s fundraisers and always being willing to help with a smile.
As the ceremony drew to a close, members of the International Veterans Chorus and the Fitchburg High School Band joined together to perform patriotic songs.
Trumpeter Chauncey Michael played “Taps” following a three musket salute heard from outside. The gunshots echoed throughout the Senior Center.