Taunton marks 50th anniversary of Vietnam Memorial Fountain on Church Green
SaturdayOct 20, 2018 at 6:51 PM Oct 21, 2018 at 12:13 AM
TAUNTON â" It was more than 50 years ago when local citizens got the idea to construct a memorial fountain on Church Green in memory of Army Lt. William Murphy of Taunton, who was killed in Vietnam in 1965.
By the time the Taunton Vietnam Memorial Fountain was dedicated in 1968, another 11 men from Taunton had died in Vietnam. A 13th and final soldier died there in 1969.
Saturdayâs 50th anniversary of the dedication of the fountain drew a large crowd, including family members of those killed in Vietnam, as well as Gov. Charlie Baker and other elected officials.
Baker offered his sympathy and appreciation of the Gold Star families whose sons were killed in Vietnam.
âWe will never forget and will never be able to repay the terrible sa crificeâ endured by those Taunton families, he said, whose sons died in Vietnam.
Baker noted that a distinction must always be drawn between a governmentâs decision to enter into a military conflict and the soldiers who are deployed to serve in combat.
âThe biggest lesson of Vietnam was that we must separate the war from the warrior,â he said.
Vietnam veteran Dennis Proulx, vice president of Taunton Area Vietnam Veterans Association, called it âa war that divided our country, very much as it is today.â
By 1968 protests throughout the country in opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War -- during which 58,000 American soldiers died -- were commonplace.
Mayor Thomas Hoye Jr. praised the Taunton Area Vietnam Veterans Association for organizing the event.
He also recognized the TAVVA and its members for their tireless dedication through the decades to remind the public that there are still soldiers missing in a ction from various wars and conflicts.
Proulx said that the physical remains of all 13 Tauntonians who died in Vietnam have been returned to the United States for burial.
Hoye pointed out that Tauntonâs Vietnam fountain was one of the first, if not the first, of its kind in the country ever to have been built and dedicated.
The late, former Taunton Mayor Benjamin Friedman was lauded for having taken an active role in establishing the fountain, which was made possible as result of nearly 900 private donations.
âIt was a controversial time for our country, but (Friedman) had the foresight, courage and leadership to decide to dedicate this memorial to the men who made the ultimate sacrifice in that war,â said state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton.
The TAVVA also notes that John Bobola, who at the time was the city's police chief, assisted the mayor in setting the idea in motion.
The sister of Lt. Murphy, Patricia Latimer, said she and her parents never truly recovered from the shock of losing her only sibling in Vietnam.
âThe family was devastated,â she said. âBut weâre Irish, so we were very stoic and didnât talk about it a lot.â
Latimer, 74, said her brother enlisted in the Army after graduation in 1963 from Stonehill College. He enrolled in officerâs training school before being sent to Vietnam.
He'd been in Vietnam less than three months when the unit he was leading, she said, was ambushed.
âHe was shot in the chest, and it was over,â she said.
Latimer said her brother, who was three years her senior, would write letters expressing his sympathy for younger soldiers who said they werenât receiving letters.
âHe said, âThese poor kids arenât getting letters from home,ââ which she surmises most likely resulted at the time from glitches in the postal service.
Latimer said her brother Bill, who at the time was 24, made i t clear in his own letters that he had had his fill of combat in Vietnam.
âHe couldnât wait to get out and get home,â she said.
Latimer said sheâs always been grateful for the fact that Stonehill College years ago established a scholarship program in her brotherâs name.
She said her brother, who graduated from Coyle High School, had wanted to become a lawyer.
Linda Mello and her sister Mary Donovan recalled the loss of their brother Edward Dull, who was 20 when he went missing in action. A week later, they said, the Army confirmed he was dead.
âHe was a forward observer,â or scout, said Mello.
The two sisters said there was always a feeling of tension and apprehension during the time their brother was in Vietnam.
âWe always thought, âWhat are the odds that something bad will happen?ââ Mello, 66, said.
Donovan, 72, said her father, who served in World War II, always kept track of the body counts rep orted by news outlets of American soldiers killed in action.
âWe would check and think to ourselves we made it through another day,â without getting bad news about their brother, she said.
Madeline Pina of Southbridge was the sister of Edward Andrade, who was 20 when he died in action in 1967 in Da Nang.
âHe was just a baby,â Pina, 83, said.
Pina said her brother, who enlisted as a Marine in 1966, had been home on leave and died a month later after returning to Vietnam. She said it took 26 days for his body to be returned.
Pina said the official cause of death was a heart attack.
Taunton resident Dominga âPinkyâ Pina, no relation, was also at Saturdayâs memorial fountain rededication.
Pinaâs son Ronald, a Marine corporal, was 20 when he was killed in action in Thua Thien.
âIâm very, very happy about this, and I appreciate that the governor and mayor are here,â said Pina, 92.
Local historian and educator Bill Hanna, during his speech at the podium, referred to the lawn-like area of Church Green -- where the fountain is centerpiece to both the Vietnam and Global War on Terrorism monuments -- as âthis historic triangle.â
Hanna described Mayor Friedman as a world traveler who âhad always been inspired by the beauty of fountains.â
Hanna also noted that Army Staff Sgt. John Raymond, who was killed in 1967, was a WWII vet who reenlisted to serve in Vietnam.
Proulx said Raymond was 47 when he died in the infantry.
Father Phillip Salois delivered the blessing of the fountain and anointed the fountain with holy water.
Salois, who was awarded a Silver Star for his military service, recalled how water was a precious commodity to soldiers in Vietnam.
âIt was more precious than gold,â he said, recalling airdrops of water containers.
âIt saved our lives in the war,â he added.
Other speakers included stat e Reps. Keiko Orrall and Shaunna OâConnell, as well as state Secretary of Veterans Affairs Francisco Urena.
Gabriel Blanchard, a Junior ROTC Taunton High student, was called upon to sing the national anthem after the person who originally was scheduled to perform the honors did not show up.
He sang it with conviction despite some nervousness.
There was also a 21-gun salute by members of the Marine Corps League and a reading by TAVVA secretary Hank Mello of the names of the 13 soldiers killed.
During the reading -- which included the laying of 13 flowers in front of a granite monument bearing the names of the Taunton soldiers killed in Vietnam -- the sound system played a recording of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.
That piece of classical music was prominently featured in the 1986 movie "Platoon," which depicted a U.S. infantry platoon in Vietnam.Source: Google News Vietnam | Netizen 24 Vietnam