NEWBURYPORT — Standing besides six granite posts installed inside the city’s veterans memorial across from City Hall in Brown Square, World War II veterans and others rang memorial bells each time the name of a recently deceased local veteran was read by Mayor Donna Holaday.
The ringing of memorial bells and the posts, donated by a local family, marked the newest custom in the city’s longstanding tradition of honoring those each Veterans Day who fought and died for this country.
The city’s veterans agent, Kevin Hunt, again served as master of ceremonies for the roughly 90-minute event that began around 10:45 a.m. with a short parade from Bartlet Mall to the steps of City Hall. Right at 11 a.m. accompanied by the un-choreographed striking of church bells and a stiff wind, Hunt began the day’s official program.
Joining him at City Hall were City Councilors Ed Cameron, Richard Sullivan Jr., Ari Herzog and Robert Cronin along with School Committee member Steven Cole. U.S. Rep. John Tierney was also on hand and spoke briefly regarding the federal government’s commitment to make sure the nation’s veterans hospitals, clinics and bases were fully funded.
“It’s the least we can do,” Tierney said.
Hunt discussed the history of Veterans Day, which used to be called Armistice Day in reference to the end of World War I, and the treatment of veterans returning home from wars spanning back to the American Revolution. World War II veterans were among those applauded and labeled as heroes by the country.
“It seemed as though we couldn’t do enough for them,” Hunt said.
But returning Vietnam War veterans couldn’t say the same as people called them warmongers, baby killers and drug addicts. Television shows like “Hawaii Five-O” and almost all movies with the exception of John Wayne’s “The Green Berets” portrayed them negatively as well, Hunt said.