Billerica Unveils Monument to Those Hurt by Agent Orange
BILLERICA -- Returning home from the Vietnam War presented challenges for veterans. On top of working to transition back into civilian life, many were subject to the physical impacts of exposure to Agent Orange.
On Sunday, officials and residents of Billerica honored those whose lives were taken or forever changed by Agent Orange with the unveiling of a new monument at the park off Treble Cove Road.
Selectman Mike Rosa is chair of the Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Memorial Committee. He said although the committee formed at the beginning of 2016, the process of getting a memorial up only began about eight months ago, when the committee was re-energized.
“I’m thrilled with the way it came out,” Rosa said. “I just want to thank all our veterans. This is just one way to thank those afflicted by Agent Orange.”
The black monument reads, “In memory of all those who died because of this chemical, and pray for those who are still suffering.”
Agent Orange was a defoliant the United States used during the Vietnam War. From 1962 to 1967, the chemical was commonly used to thin out dense forests throughout the Vietnam War. William Baro, a veteran and member of the committee, outlined some of the diseases that have been associated with Agent Orange, including Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, Type 2 diabetes and more.
The monument was unveiled at 11 a.m. by four of the committee members, Baro, Frank Busalacchi, Dom DiMambro, and Jack McCarthy, who are also veterans.
“People don’t realize that Agent Orange not only affects those that were subjected to it, but it also affects their offspring, so it’s generational,” Rosa said.
Rosa thanked the many involved who helped make the memorial possible, including Town Manager John Curran, the police and fire departments, countless volunteers and others.
Selectman Ed Giroux said it was an amazing accomplishment by the committee to have this memorial completed in such a timely fashion.
“This community has always supported its veterans, we appreciate their service and Billerica has lots of dedications for different memorials,” Giroux said. “I thank the veterans for all their service that allows us to do things like this. Without the veterans and their service, we wouldn’t be able to do anything like this at all.”
Larry DeBenedictis, an 89-year-old Korean War veteran, was one of many in town to celebrate Veterans Day in Billerica.
“All I can say is everything done here is beautiful,” DeBenedictis said. “It’s something permanent to remind people of what went on in Vietnam.”
Mike Rosa’s mother, Carol Rosa, said the service was “absolutely beautiful.”
“The monument is just beyond words, it really is beautiful. I know the committee worked really hard on it, and it shows, it really does show,” she said. “Sometimes we forget how important these men were to us, especially with all the strife going on today.”
DeBenedictis said he was pleased with the turnout and how the community has come together to show support for veterans and those currently serving the country.
“Some suffered more than others during the war, but all should be remembered,” he said.
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.