Wreaths Across America, a nationwide program that places wreaths on veteran graves in honor of their service during the holiday season. WAA strives to Remember, Honor, and Teach. Remember the fallen; Honor those who serve; and Teach our children the value of freedom. The program allows an opportunity to raise money. In Newbury, the money raised is put towards helping maintain, repair and care for veteran graves, and veteran monuments in town.
As the Veteran Grave Officer, a position I have been appointed to by the Selectman of Newbury. My duties include placing of flags as well as care, repair and maintaining the veteran graves within the town, at all the cemeteries and burying grounds in Newbury.
This year, and years going forward, a couple Senior Citizens in Town will be able to work-off no more then $1,100 off their property tax by helping and assisting the Veteran Grave Officer. This breaks down to 100 hours of work at the rate $11 per hour. Senior Citizens are not required to dedicate all 100 hours, but their tax break will only reflect the amount of hours they have worked.
People ask me, ‘Out of everything you do, what do you enjoy the most?’. My favorite thing and something I truly enjoy is being the Veteran Grave Officer for the Town of Newbury. The role, as outlined by M.G.L Chapter 115; Section 9, is more then just placing flags for Memorial Day.
The flag box that was sent up and placed in Newbury collected close to 1,500 flags between August 2016 to Veteran’s Day, November 11th 2016. Due to the unexpected response of the collection box State Secretary of Veteran Service Francisco Urena reached out to help with having the flags retired respectfully.
February 2015, good friend of mine, Frederick Maguire, lost his battle with PTSD. Maguire and I served in the same unit together in Iraq back in 2007-2008. Days after learning about his passing I also learned about the frustrating the family was having with the Army and VA in regards to benefits. As the result of suicide the veteran loses all benefits – from the military and Veterans’ Affairs. After seeing the family struggling; there was an attempt to raise funds through a GoFundMe and signs of frustration online. I offered to try to be of some assistance.
Learning Magurie’s next of kin was his 17 year old son, I felt for him. I know as a veteran myself it can be extremely difficult sometimes battling the military and the VA for services or benefits. I couldn’t event imagine just losing your father and trying to get him his benefits he owned. After many sleepless nights, and days that just seemed to drag his son Cody and I were able to make everything work. Spc. Maguire was heading from Oklahoma back to Massachusetts to be united with family and to have his services with military honors.
When Spc. Maguire, Cody and his mother arrived to Boston they were greeted at the airport by myself who was accompanied by Massachusetts State Police and Massachusetts Envirmental Police. Due to a mandatory statewide training exercise for Mass. State Police, Mass. Envirmental Police covered down and provided an escort from the airport to Holbrook, Massachusetts.
After his passing I wanted to do something to honor him and also do something to help other veterans out who were battling some of the same struggles that he was. Then an idea can to my mind, ‘Why not have a service dog named in his honor to help a veteran with PTSD.’ With that came a post on Facebook mentioning I would like to honor my friend. A family who I am very close with reached out to me and told me they would love to help. The Plante family, who lost family member a few years ago, Stephen Plante. Stephen was a great man, a great father and a great husband. His wife, Bethany Plante, offered to cover the cost of the service dog Maguire in honor of her late husband Stephen Plante. The Stephen Plante Memorial Fund generously donated $10,000 to Operation Delta Dog in the name of Stephen Plante. Today, Mocha and I had the pleasure of meeting Maguire for the first time. I’m happy to say Maguire is just about finished with initial training with the trainer and has already been paired up with a Veteran, whom he will be living with soon. BIG THANK YOU to the Plante family for helping me honor my good friend Maguire and allowing both Maguire and Stephen’s name to carry on. RIP Maguire and RIP Stephen Plante. God bless you both – Two great men have now come together to help a veteran and a dog.