Lynn honors its veterans in ceremony

Lynn, Ma. 11-11-18. Mike Sweeney, Director of Veterans' Serivces salutes the colors posted by members of the Lynn English Jr. Marine ROTC that includes Alicai Donoso at the Veterans Day ceremony in Lynn Auditdorium. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Tom Salvi, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in the Vietnam War, remembers vividly what it was like being stationed at Con Thien, a combat base that was referred to as the Hill of Angels because of the massive number of casualties there.  

When Salvi served in 1967, fighting was so fierce at Con Thien that infantrymen began referring to the base as DMZ, or the Dead Marine Zone.

“We got shelled every day, every morning,” Salvi told The Item. “(They) just tried to kick us off the mountain.”

Salvi recalled the horror of troops not being able to get their dead out and returned home to their families. So, the bodies were put in Amtracs, or landing vehicles, until the Marines could get them out.

Families were notified their loved ones were killed, but it took weeks to get the remains home.

Salvi was one of more than 50 veterans honored at the Lynn Veterans Day Ceremony at the Lynn Memorial City Hall and Auditorium, which was preceded by a breakfast. Veterans Day was especially poignant this year as it marked the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, or the end of World War I.

The recognition was a lot different from how Salvi and other Vietnam War veterans were treated when they came home. Most of them have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he said, with part of that often attributed to how poorly they were treated upon returning to the United States after serving.

“You would give your life for a stranger, but when you got back, people couldn’t care less,” Salvi said. “A little over 58,000 (Americans) died over there and we got no respect from people over here.”

Salvi, like most other veterans in an attendance who were given the opportunity to speak during the ceremony, chose to simply state his name, what military branch he served in and where or when he served. Some veterans chose to use their remarks to honor loved ones, such as friends or family, who were killed in action.

“The focus of this program is the veterans,” said Michael Sweeney, Lynn veterans services director, who chose to keep his remarks brief.

To mark the official end of WWI, Nov. 11, 1918, the ceremony paused at 11 a.m. to take part in a nationwide initiative of the United States WWI Centennial Commission, where church bells rang 21 times for what is referred to as the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. An app sounding the bells sounded throughout City Hall, but ringing from Lynn churches could also be heard outside.

Unveiled during the ceremony was the makeover to the Lynn City Hall Veterans Memorial Lobby, a project over the last several months that has included restoring the gold lettering to engravings in the foyer, buffing up and restoring brass in some areas, and putting in new rugs and flags. It will soon feature two new museum-quality cabinets to house military items and the names of the city’s veterans and were paid for through a state and matching city grant.

Mayor Thomas M. McGee said the project is part of a larger effort to spruce up City Hall to make it more of an experience rather than a visit, which was also aimed at coinciding with the building’s 70th anniversary next year.

“On Veterans Day, we certainly pause to remember the fallen, but we also show our appreciation for those still among us,” McGee said. “Veterans Day is the promise that our nation does not take their sacrifices for granted … It is with a collective spirit that we renew our vow to honor our soldiers and families that support them on this day and every day and to pledge to provide for them as they have so willingly provided for us.”

The ceremony featured a drill presentation from the Lynn English High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC, performances from the Lynn Public Schools Band and patriotic songs performed by Gayle Bastarache.

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