Local VFW Honor Guard to represent Massachusetts on Inauguration Day

Hampden County

(WWLP) – The Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars State Honor Guard will make an appearance in the virtual inauguration “Parade across America” on Wednesday to represent the state.

In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the ending of WWII, the Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars State Honor Guard paid a special tribute to “The Greatest Generation” of World War II, and to their “Newest Greatest Generation” of today’s All-Volunteer United States Armed Forces.

“We’re extremely honored and we only found out a two days ago. It’s definitely a point of pride for western Massachusetts,” VFW Department of Massachusetts State Sergeant-At-Arms, Brian Willette told 22News.

The Honor Guard representing Massachusetts is made up of representatives from western Massachusetts VFW District 7. District 7 includes VFW Posts located in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties. They chose Szot Park in Chicopee as the background for its war history and tank.

“We picked the tank because we have World War Two uniforms. We pay tribute to “The Greatest Generation” of World War Two veterans and simultaneously honoring our current serving veterans the all-volunteer forces of today’s army,” Willette continued.

Szot Park is named after U.S. Army Private Frank J. Szot, F company, 104th Infantry Regiment, 26th “Yankee” Division. He was the first Chicopee resident killed in action in World War One.

The parade will take place on Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. and communities in all 56 states and territories will celebrate America’s heroes, and highlight the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country.

The location of the video isn’t just a historical one given the theme of their video, but also a personal one. For Willette, the tank was a source of joy for his family for three generations. “This iconic symbol has been something that I played on as a kid living close by to here. My daughter played on this tank. And her kids, my grandkids, also play on this tank,” Willette said.

The guard is led by Willette’s daughter, Christine Luppachino, who is currently a Master Sergeant serving a commander of the Barnes Air National Guard Base Honor Guard. Willette is a United States Army Purple Heart recipient, wounded in Afghanistan in 2010. Lupacchino is a United States Air Force Veteran who served in Iraq in 2009.

“She taught me almost everything that I know about Honor Guard,” Willette continued.

According to a news release sent to 22News, the Massachusetts VFW Honor Guard is wearing
the World War II Airborne uniform and distinctive shoulder insignia of the 82nd Airborne Division, America’s first division comprised of all-volunteer Paratroopers.

Two weeks ago they recorded two versions of the video, giving the parade committee options of which to use. “We told them [Presidential Inauguration Committee] what we do, what we would have done in a [in-person] parade. Which is a maneuver called “Eyes left” because the presidential viewing stand would be at the White House on the left on Pennsylvania Avenue so we could face left as we pass the president,” Willette explained.

The veterans participating, are all life members of the VFW and have all served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

They include:

  • Christine Lupacchino (U.S. Air Force Veteran) – Commander (from Chicopee) served in Iraq in 2009
  • Brian Willette (U.S. Army Veteran) – Carrying a rifle (from South Hadley) United States Army Purple Heart recipient, wounded in Afghanistan in 2010
  • Eric Segundo (U.S. Army Veteran) – Carrying WWII Flag (from Springfield)
  • Rene Fuertes (U.S. Navy Veteran) – Carrying the U.S. 48 star flag (from Randolph)
  • Keith Buckhout (U.S. Marine & Air Force Veteran) – Carrying a rifle (from Easthampton)

“For us it really catches everything that we do as members of Veterans of Foreign Wars. We’re paying tribute to our fellow veterans, we’re paying tribute to our constitution and our nation and it’s going to be a day of national unity we hope,” Willette said.

In addition to being the VFW Commander of our State Honor Guard, Christine Lupacchino is currently serving as a Master Sergeant in the Massachusetts Air National Guard / 104th Fighter
Wing and is the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC) of the Barnes Air National Guard Base Honor Guard, in Westfield Massachusetts.

For more information, click here.

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