HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Veterans of Foreign Wars honored two former leaders of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

Former Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Paul Barabani and Deputy Superintendent John Paradis received the VFW’s “Above and Beyond” award during a ceremony at the VFW post in Florence Sunday.

The two men had come out of retirement to help mitigate the COVID-19 crisis at the Soldiers’ Home in March of 2020, when 77 residents died during those early days of the pandemic.

The two award recipients were instrumental in the creation of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition and took a leadership role in recommending construction of a new Soldiers’ Home.

“The coalition, the people thought our community in Massachusetts came together, to support the families to make sure this never happens again,” said award recipient John Paradis.

Paul Barabani, who was also honored Sunday, told 22News, “I’ll paraphrase a quote from Martin Luther King, ‘you begin to die when you remain silent about things that matter.’ This mattered, this mattered to me personally…. it mattered to me as a veteran.”

The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition has successfully advocated for many health protocol and management reforms, and the reconstruction of a new facility at the Holyoke location.