Published in the January 20, 2016 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD – One of the ways that the Wakefield Veterans Advisory Board is fostering appreciation of veterans is through reaching out to the next generation. And one way that they plan on doing that is by donating books about veterans to local schools.
At the board’s meeting last night Veterans Services Officer Alicia Reddin discussed plans to donate copies of “Heroes in Our Neighborhood” by Valerie Pfundstein to every first grade class in Wakefield.
The book is a rhyming picture book for young readers that fosters mindfulness of and appreciation for the brave service men and women who are also our family, friends and neighbors. To help kids understand what past generations have sacrificed for our freedoms, the book talks about ordinary people in our own communities who are also veterans: the butcher at the grocery store, firefighters, mail carriers, policemen and teachers.
The author, Valerie Pfundstein has said that she wrote the book to “encourage readers of all ages to enjoy our freedoms and to thank the men and women who have preserved those freedoms for all of us.”
Reddin told the board last night that she would be picking up a case of the books at the State House today where she will be attending a legislative luncheon for Massachusetts Veterans Services Officers. Reddin said Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services Secretary Franciso Urena is friends with the author. After Reddin told Urena of the plan to donate books to the local schools, he got a case of the books for Wakefield.
The board liked Reddin’s idea of a memorial bookplate to be placed inside the front cover of each of the books with the names of several Wakefield men who sacrificed their lives in wartime. Reddin said that she would explore local options for having the bookplates made, including Northeast Metrotech High School.
Reddin said that Urena had told her that the author had even said that she would be willing to come to Wakefield and do a reading for local students at some point.
Reddin told the board that on March 23, the local district is putting on a mental health class for veterans services officers across the state. The class is being sponsored and paid for by the Wakefield Rotary Club and will show participants who work on the front lines of veterans issues how to identify and handle mental health crises. The class will also feature representatives from law enforcement. Reddin said that the class is already full and has a waiting list. She hopes it will become an annual event.
In other business last night the Veterans Advisory Board talked about plans for this year’s holidays, including Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans’ Day.
Reddin said that Wakefield’s annual Memorial Day ceremony is the best one she’s ever seen. She proposed to the board that they think about ways to make it even better. She wondered if it might be a good idea to scale back the Memorial Day parade and put more of the focus on the ceremony itself.
The board also discussed the local Flag Day observance, which is run by the American Legion every June 14 on Veterans Memorial Common. The annual event includes a burning ceremony for the proper disposal of American flags that are no longer serviceable. Member Tom Collins recalled that the flag disposal ceremony started several years ago as an Eagle Scout project.
Reddin said that she would update the local Veterans Services Department website to show all locations where people can drop off flags to be disposed of. She is also looking for someone to build or donate a proper container in which to store retired flags that are dropped off at her office.
The board also discussed increasing the presence of local veterans in the Independence Day Parade. She said that she would like to see more local veterans, including members of the board, march or ride a vehicle in the parade.
Reddin reported that last year the local Veterans Services office facilitated donations of 30 holiday gift bags to to women’s homeless shelters. The total value of the donations was $3,000. Another $2,500 in holiday donations were given to Liberty House in Lawrence.
Reddin said that last year the Wakefield Memorial High School Recycling Club also collected 660 pairs of socks that were donated to veterans’ homeless shelters. She said that socks are among the most needed items at the shelters.