Saugus unites to honor its veterans

From left, Purple Heart recipients Lester Markovitz, Larry Capuzzo, Bill Boomhower and Dominic Cataldo.

By Gayla Cawley

SAUGUS — When some of the Northern Strand Community Trail was dedicated for Purple Heart recipients on Sunday, veterans received the recognition that eluded them following combat.

“This trail, I think it’s for all veterans, and the community coming together and remembering the veterans because it wasn’t always like that,” said 68-year-old Bill Boomhower, a Purple Heart recipient and U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran.

The dedication of a portion of the 10-mile trail, from School Street to Adams Avenue, builds on last spring, when Saugus was designated a Purple Heart Community by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. More than a dozen Purple Heart recipients live in Saugus, said Pedro Brito, veteran service officer for Saugus, Melrose and Wakefield.

Most of the recipients are Korean and Vietnam War veterans, while others served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving in the military.

Larry Capuzzo, 73, a Purple Heart recipient and U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran, said the dedication of the trail honored the ones that didn’t come back.

“They’re the real heroes,” he said.

The Northern Strand Community Trail, also known as the Bike to the Sea Trail, connects Lynn, Revere, Saugus, Everett and Malden, along the former Boston and Maine Railroad.

Lester Markovitz, 69, a U.S. Marine Corp. Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, said he appreciated the town honoring veterans.

“It really means something to us,” he said. “It’s nice.

Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of the Selectmen, said the designation is a time to reflect on and appreciate the freedoms that U.S. citizens have because of the people who have served in the military.

“It shows that our community is coming together to honor our veterans,” she said.

The ceremony at the Essex Street Fire Station coincided with the observance of Purple Heart Day, which is in commemoration of the day Gen. George Washington, the nation’s first president, established the “Badge for Military Merit,” medal in 1782. The badge was to be presented to soldiers for any singularly meritorious action, according to history.com.

Since then, the award nearly disappeared. But in 1927, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Summerall tried unsuccessfully to revive the honor. His successor, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, brought back the medal and oversaw the design. In 1932, the modern medal was introduced.

“Talk to a veteran,” said Diane Walsh, a Saugus resident who volunteers with veterans. “Listen to their stories…for it is through remembering and retelling their stories, we truly honor the sacrifices made by our veterans, our heroes, who walked into the unknown and lived the words: duty, honor, sacrifice, service. We live in the home of the free because of our veterans, our heroes, our brave.”

Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

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