By: John MacDonald – April, 2014
As I sat on a barstool at my local VFW fifteen or so years ago I watched an older veteran pouring over his emotions, adventures overseas and through numerous bottles of beer with another fellow veteran. The moment I witnessed, seemed distant, but familiar as I listened to the two connect, relate and drink their way through what was a pretty loud discussion. At the same time the details seemed very intimate to them of a battle from long ago. The two veterans I described as it turned out, shared the same battle field and experiences only the two of them could have appreciated in that given night. It was a reunion unscheduled, unscripted and raw. I myself a Desert Storm veteran, sat and watched them through much younger eyes and said to myself that I hoped that would never be me. Sitting in a bar room, bearing my soul to another in some sort of tough luck conversation.
As time has gone on and with experiences that have taught me better in life, what I wasn’t prepared for mentally back then, prepared me for today. I learned since the days of Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia that it’s good to talk about things and share some of the demons that keep you awake at night. Because if you do, they may not completely ever go away, but perhaps you can start to replace the old memories with some better ones.
Last November at a veteran’s event I had a brief moment to feel the same connection with another veteran that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I ran into then Mayor-Elect of Lawrence Dan Rivera, who I didn’t know at the time was a Desert Storm Veteran himself. As it turned out after a brief discussion Mayor Rivera passed through the same place I had been stationed at in Operation Desert Strom. A little known place called King Kalid Military City in northern Saudi Arabia. On a tiny airstrip, some twenty years ago, two guys from the Merrimack Valley unwittingly crossed paths. We then both discussed what a neat idea it would be to have a POW/MIA Chair Dedication after he was inaugurated.
You see, good things can happen when veterans connect. I had my VFW moment.
I shared my story with Mayor Elliott of Lowell and he decided to turn ideas into action. Soon after both Mayors were inaugurated in January I received a text message from Mayor Elliott that read something like this… “That POW/MIA Chair Dedication idea, can we make that happen… ASAP?” The rest as they say is history. As a result of that moment back in November, now on Tuesday April 15th, both the City of Lowell and the City of Lawrence will hold chair dedications at each city hall in honor of our POW/MIA’s.
In conjunction with Rolling Thunder of MA, who dedicates chairs in towns and city halls across Massachusetts, along with Joe Machado, his fellow directors of Veterans Assisting Veterans, Lowell and Lawrence Veterans Services Director’s Eric Lamarche and Jamie Melendez, the two city halls will have a POW/MIA Chair Dedication take place. Both Mayor Rivera and Mayor of Lowell, Rodney Elliott are spearheading and will be attending each other’s events that will take place in Lawrence City Hall at 2:30pm and in Lowell City Hall at 5:30pm.
With the assistance of local businesses and organizations that always seem to come through and help the community, David Daly of Pridestar Ambulance will donate the POW/MIA Chairs at both city halls, The Lowell Spinners is donating the flags and Veterans Assisting Veterans are donating the ropes and stanchions that will surround the chairs. Enterprise Bank will donate the refreshments. Also both Lowell Police Department and Lawrence Police Department will be organizing a motorcycle and public official’s procession between the two cities. A true display of caring and patriotism as well.
In addition, a Lawrence business named The Coffee Cann Café and the Cann family decided to jump on board and they will be hosting a dedication of their own at 1pm on April 15th at their location at 290 Merrimack Street in Lawrence. The public is invited to attend all these events.
It really is amazing what can happen when veterans, the community and business come together.
John MacDonald is the President/CEO of Big Decisions, LLC, which is a management consulting business that concentrates on offering strategic advice on Marketing, Public Relations, Economic/ Business Development and Social Media. John has a long career of success, achieving record results in the communications field and spending over 20 years managing marketing budgets, driving the bottom line in the financial services, restaurant, retail and real estate industries.