Florence VFW Post 8006 Commander On Point for 150th Memorial Day Parade

Video by Allyson Morin

Article by Matt Benedetti

Florence, Mass–After visiting with the Commander of VFW Post 8006 in Florence, Mass., for a few minutes, it is easy to see why people naturally follow Tom Pease. Affable, relaxed and personable, Pease understands the unique challenges faced by service members and has worked to create a community-based environment that is welcoming for veterans of all generations.

An Army veteran of the Vietnam War, Pease is preparing Post 8006 for the 150th Memorial Day Parade to be held on May 28, 2018. First held after the Civil War in 1868, it is the longest continuously celebrated parade held on Memorial Day.

“We’ve never, ever missed a parade on Memorial Day,” said Pease.

 

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Florence, Mass. Memorial Day Parade, 1911

 

Traditionally, Memorial Day allows Americans an opportunity to reflect on the collective and individual sacrifices of service members.

For Pease, who served as an infantryman in Vietnam from August 1967 thru August 1968, his tour was long ago but on Memorial Day doesn’t seem so far away.

“I lost a really good friend, it tore the whole platoon up,” he remembered.

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In the Summer of 1967, the collective attention of New England was drawn to the emergence of the Boston Red Sox in the American League pennant race. Cellar dwellers in 1966, the Sox led by eventual Triple Crown Winner and MVP Carl Yastrzemski, captured the interest of young and old alike in a historic season that would be known as the “Impossible Dream.”    

The voice Red Sox announcer Curt Gowdy and the “Carl Yastrzemski Song” by Jess Cain could be heard on most front porches and car radios throughout the summer.IMG_0776

Pease, however, was less concerned with events at Fenway than he was in places like An Khe, a restive city located in the Central Highlands in the Republic of South Vietnam. News from Southeast Asia was garnering larger headlines each week and Pease had received his orders for service in Vietnam.

Drafted the previous year, the 18-year-old Smith Vocational Graduate had returned to Florence from basic training and advanced individual training at Ft. Jackson, S.C.  

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“I was on the drill team in high school and knew the draft was coming. In hindsight, I wish that I had enlisted,” he said.

Pease scored high on aptitude assessment tests and qualified for training as a helicopter pilot. After some reflection, he declined.

“I decided that I wanted to go infantry, felt better about having my feet on the ground,” he said.

As he drank cold beer and waterskied with his buddies on the river on a humid night in July, he was keenly aware that his life would be irrevocably altered in the near future.  

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After saying goodbye to family and friends in late August of 67, Pease departed from Bradley Airport in Ct. with stops at Ft. Ord, Ca, Midway Island and the Philippines before finally arriving at Cam Ranh Bay in the Republic of Vietnam.

SPC 5 Pease found himself assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry at An Khe, the infamous General George Custer’s old unit at Little Big Horn.

He thought to himself, “What have I gotten myself into?”

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His platoon leader gave him the choice of three jobs: assistant gunner, radioman or walking point. Pease selected the responsibility of walking point despite the obvious threat level.

“I always had a good sense of direction and awareness and felt confident that I could lead a squad of men,” he recalled.

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For six months he walked points on patrols in places like the Bong Son, Phan Thiet and countless villages along Highway 9.

After suffering a shrapnel wound that had become infected, Pease was assigned to accompany the unit sergeant major as an information specialist. This duty took him throughout the theater to places like Camp Evans, LZ Betty and on a recovery mission after the 77-day siege of the Marine fire-base at Khe Sanh.

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“Those Marines didn’t want to talk to any of us,” he said.

After spending time in the Au Shau Valley, Pease rotated back to the States in August of 1968 for a five-month assignment at Ft. Carson, Co.

The stark contrast between the two environments was jarring to the soldier accustomed to oppressive heat, leeches and mud.

“Funny, how the Army works,” said Pease. “Here I was in the jungle on 1 Aug and by 1 Sep I was on maneuvers in the snow,” he said.

“I got sick as a dog,” he recalled with a laugh.

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The two-year enlistment had concluded and Pease turned to civilian interests.

“I grew my hair long and all I wanted was a cold beer and to go to work,” he said.

It never occurred to him to join the VFW at the time.

“I felt that I had done enough,” he said.   

It was after 9/11 that Pease decided that he had a change of heart.

“It woke me up and I became more involved,” he said.

Today, Commander Pease oversees 135 members and is up for election for his 5th term. He understands that OIF/OEF veterans may not be immediately drawn to a fraternal organization like the VFW so soon after service but urges them to consider joining.

“We embrace these veterans and welcome them to consider joining. The VFW is not just a place to drink beer, we are active in the community and open to the whole community,” said Pease. “Hopefully these veterans and members of the community will come to the post and help us celebrate Memorial Day,” he said.

Massachusetts VFW State Commander Eric Segundo is proud of the efforts of Tom Pease at VFW Post 8006.

“Tom is an example of the dedicated members we have serving the VFW, ” said Segundo. “His commitment to our organization, veterans and community is one we should all follow. The department is proud to have members like Tom,” he added.

Much has changed since the Summer of ’67 although some things remain constant. The Red Sox have a strong team and look to be pennant contenders and servicemembers are still returning from an enduring conflict in Asia. Whether it is 1968 or 2018, the VFW will always be here to support veterans.

 

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Florence, Mass. Memorial Day Parade, 1940

 

“No one does more for veterans,” promised Tom Pease.

The village of Florence, Mass. will hold their 150th Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 28 at 1:00 p.m. following a ceremony and jet flyover. The VFW will lead the procession as they’ve always done and will continue to do.

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Massachusetts VFW and Local Businesses Help Soldier’s Family in Time of Need

Video by Allyson Morin, Article by Matt Benedetti

The temperature seemed to precipitously drop with the fading sun one late afternoon in Carver, Mass.  The noticeable chill in the air was likely a harbinger of a long winter prompting Jim Delprete to zip his coat.

Mr. Delprete, the president of Beantown Home Improvement, had just finished giving an estimate on the Flaherty residence. Pots and pans positioned across the kitchen floor made it clear the roof required extensive repair and replacement.

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“A few of the family’s funding requests fell through but the roof couldn’t wait, so we decided to fix it right away,” said Delprete.

What remained unclear was how Delprete would be compensated for the comprehensive project.  Standard practice on each project expects payment at the beginning, middle and conclusion of the work. Regarding this current job, that policy would be challenged.

One of the homeowners was a deployed soldier and his wife had indicated that immediate payment was not possible.

Delprete weighed his options.

A staunch supporter of military members, Beantown offers a 20 discount for veterans, Delprete elected to make the necessary repairs and seek reimbursement later.

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“I was happy to help and understood the situation,” Delprete said.

The pots and pans were gone from the kitchen but Rebekah Flaherty was faced with another set of problems. A deployed husband, a crying toddler and now a substantial bill that could not yet be paid.

Requests for assistance had been fruitless until she reached the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Massachusetts.

“As soon as we contacted the VFW, we got immediate help,” said Flaherty. “It was such a quick response and we can’t thank the VFW enough,” she said.

“When a loved one is deployed he or she is not in a position to address problems back home,” said Bill LeBeau, State Adjutant and Chief Operating Officer for the VFW in Massachusetts.

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Funding for the roof was allocated by the VFW Unmet Needs fund and a partnership with Yuengling Beer through the Lagers for Heroes Program.

“100 percent of the donations raised go directly to support veteran’s assistance programs like this one,” said Jim Lowe, Yuengling District Manager for Massachusetts.

“We have all served overseas and understand the challenges”, said LeBeau, a Gulf War veteran. “We are here to ease the burden for the veteran and their families,” he added.

Lagers for Heroes Program is proud to work with the VFW to assist more veteran families in the future, according to Lowe.

“The VFW is an excellent organization and we are proud to partner with them in assisting veterans,” said Lowe.

LeBeau said the VFW is evolving to better support today’s veterans.

“We are active in the community and every VFW Post can provide the knowledge and resources to help,” he said. “No one does more for veterans than the VFW,” said LeBeau.

To learn more, or get involved, please visit http://www.vfwma.com.

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Proudly produced by Executive Recognition Services in conjunction with the Massachusetts VFW. Contact ERS journalists at executiverecognitionservices@gmail.com.

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BOSTON VFW SERVICE OFFICE STANDS WITH VETERANS

No one does more for veterans.

When a young person raises their right hand taking the oath of enlistment to serve in the U.S. Military, he or she willingly accepts the inherent risks associated with defending our country.

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are trained to fight our nation’s enemies under adverse conditions in any environment.

After leaving the military, however, these veterans are much less prepared to fight for benefits earned while serving during an overseas campaign.

Fortunately, due to the steadfast support of the men and women of the VFW in Massachusetts and across the country, these veterans know that they will not be fighting this battle alone.

VFW State Service Officers are staunch advocates for veterans seeking advice relative to managing the byzantine process of accessing VA benefits. Any veterans, regardless of service, stateside or overseas, members or not, can seek assistance from the VFW.

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Delray Dorsey is the State Service Officer for Massachusetts and a Gulf War Navy veteran. He understands the frustration felt by campaign veterans seeking help with the VA and his staff is specifically trained to handle federal claims on their behalf.

“They come into the office looking for guidance and from start to finish, we are working with that veteran,” said Dorsey from his office on the 15th floor of the JFK Federal Building in downtown Boston.

“We help them wade through the bureaucratic red tape and whatever resources that the veteran needs, we help provide it,” said Dorsey, who also serves as Post Commander for VFW Post 1399 In Weymouth, Mass.

A certified EMT, Dorsey possesses a granular understanding of the medical nuances related to many VA claims. As well, his assistant Leah LaPointe is a paralegal and brings her expertise to her role as claims consultant and office manager. She has served in this position for seven years.

Dorsey describes Lapointe as the ‘backbone of the office.’

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“I enjoy helping people,” said LaPointe with a bright smile.  

“You aren’t going to get rich doing this job and you have to want to help someone, who better than someone who served our country? asked the Jamaica Plain native.

Certain cases take years to resolve and if the outcome is favorable to the veteran, LaPointe shares their sense of relief.

“We do the research, take the time and intervene when we need to,” said Lapointe whose father and husband are both veterans.

“I have had the unique experience of telling someone good news and they cry, then I cry” she laughed.  “It’s extremely rewarding,” she added.  

Both Dorsey and Lapointe, armed with their respective medical and legal expertise, comprise a strong team representing the Boston VFW office.

“When a veteran comes in for help with a claim, they are never handed a packet of paperwork to fill out. We manage the paperwork and the only thing they leave here with is a handshake, a business card and a smile,” he said.

Veterans are encouraged to contact Delray at delray.dorsey@va.gov and Leah at leah.lapointe@va.gov or call 617-303-5689 for assistance with VA related claims.

“Our door is always open,” said Dorsey.

The Boston VFW office is located at the JFK Federal Building Suite 1500C, Boston Ma. 02203        

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Video by Allyson Morin. Article by Matt Benedetti. Executive Recognition Service.