WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Multiple American Legion chapters gathered in at the Veterans’ Memorial in Stanley Park on Saturday to honor the at least 76 veterans who died of COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
“We were heartbroken. We were watching it everyday,” said American Legion member Laurie Lyons. “As it continued to turn out into the situation that it was, we were all heartbroken.”
For six years they’ve visited the home. But they couldn’t go this year due to COVID-19 so they took up donations to pay for memorial stones at the Veterans’ Memorial.
Typically families pay for the stones but the group didn’t think the families of the veterans who died in the Soldiers’ Home outbreak should have to pay.
Jim Cutting, Commander of American Legion Post 373, told 22News, “This is a special day for us. The Soldiers’ Home has been our adopted family. We love going down there, we like talking to the men and women down there.”
Twelve names will go on each stone, along with the veterans’ ranks and dates.
“We serve the veterans. We don’t care if we’re veterans or nothing,” said member Jospeh Falco. “This year it hurt. We know the family members are hurting real bad for the ones they lost but we got to know them too.”
One woman has a personal connection to the event, not only is she the president of the park but her daughter-in-law is Val Liptak, the Soldiers’ Home interim superintendent.
“To see this group of individuals who care, so deeply for the veterans and what has gone on over at the Soldiers’ Home, it’s beyond words. I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate what they have done,” said Angela Derouin, President of the Board of Directors at Stanley Park.
When it comes to the 20 charges that Attorney General Maura Healey brought against former Superintendent Bennett Walsh and Medical Director David Clinton, Lyons told 22News she’s glad they’re trying to better the services for the residents of the home.