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Pittsfield Honors Fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan With New Monument
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Correspondent
02:23PM / Friday, September 11, 2020
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VFW Post 448 Commander Arnie Perras thanks all those who made the monument possible.

Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans are asked to raise their hands.

The monument was supposed to come directly from India, but the committee was able to find a black granite marker closer to home. This monument was still imported from India but is about a foot shorter.

Sgt. Maj. Michael P. King focuses on the words engraved on the monument "No One Left Behind."

Veterans placed wreaths near the monument to conclude the ceremony.

Sgt. 1st Class Mark Pompi says the driving force behind this memorial was VFW Post 448 Commander Arnold Perras.

Perras says it was important to hold the ceremony on 9/11. He said they planned to use a scale model of the monument if they were unable to get the real one in time.


PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 448 held a dedication ceremony Friday morning on the 19th anniversary of 9/11 to unveil the Iraq and Afghanistan War Memorial at Veterans Memorial Park.
 
"As long as there is war, there will be death," Sgt. Maj. Michael P. King said Friday morning in front of the 50 or so attendees who spread out over the park. "We cannot avoid it; however, we can choose how we deal with it." 
 
The Berkshire Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial Committee raised nearly $50,000 to acquire the black granite marker that holds the names of Berkshire County residents who died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Mayor Linda Tyer spoke of her personal connection to the monument. She said her father is a retired colonel of the Air Force and she grew up on military bases all around the United States and Europe. She said participating in these ceremonies brings her back to childhood memories of American flags, men and women in uniform, and the sound of taps.
 
"Today is September 11th, this is the 19th year of our national day of mourning and remembrance," Tyer said. "There could be no more fitting time for us to dedicate the Iraq Afghanistan monument today."
 
Tyer thanked all military personnel, retired and in active duty, for their service. She also extended her gratitude to the Memorial Committee for taking what was a tragic moment in American life and putting together a monument to remember those who stepped forward to protect and serve the United States after 9/11.
 
"When we remember their service, we remember them," Tyer said. "We remember their families and express our gratitude for their ultimate sacrifice."
 
The ceremony was led by Arnold M. Perras, commander of VFW Post 448 in Pittsfield, and he thanked all those who helped make the monument a possibility.
 
He said the monument itself is solid granite imported from India. He said it was important to use granite from India because it was of the highest quality and did not contain hairline fractures that would likely lead to damage during Northeast winters. 
 
The memorial honors five Berkshire County residents who gave their lives serving after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in 2001:
 
The five soldiers' names are laser etched into the stone facing the road and include Sgt. 1st Class Daniel H. Petithory, 32, of Cheshire, who was killed by a friendly fire bombing on Dec. 5, 2001, in Afghanistan; Sgt. Glenn R. Allison, 24, of Pittsfield who died Dec. 18, 2003, during physical training in Baghdad, Iraq; Chief Warrant Officer Stephen M. Wells, 29, of North Egremont, who died Feb. 25, 2004, when the helicopter he was in crashed in Habbinayah, Iraq; Spc. Michael R. DeMarsico II, 20, of North Adams, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on Aug. 16, 2012, in Panjway, Afghanistan; and Spc. Mitchell K. Daehling, 24, of Dalton, who also was killed by an IED on May 14, 2013, in Sanjaray, Afghanistan.
 
A time capsule containing materials from the Gold Star families of the five fallen soldiers was sealed underneath the monument and will be opened in 2101, 100 years from now.
 
The front of the memorial features an image of two soldiers supporting one another and the text "NO ONE LEFT BEHIND."
 
King spoke about the phrase "no one left behind,"  and said it extended beyond the battlefield. He said it is important to remember the veterans who carry the burden of war with them every day. No soldiers have survived combat alone, so there is no need for them to suffer alone today, he said.
 
He explained that when he enlisted in the military and repeated the Oath of Enlistment, he understood that all of those words summed up to "I will die for you."
 
In 2005, he said his cousin was killed by a car bomb in Baghdad, and he truly realized the pain that military families experience. About a year and a half later, he was deployed to Iraq and experienced a whole new level of loss.
 
"Every veteran has said, 'I will die for you,' however, my time as a warfighter is over," he said. "I now speak to the men and women who have died in service for our country. I will live for you."
 
Perras listed community partners who donated time, money, and materials to bring the monument to fruition.
 
Perras said around the memorial are paving stones with names etched into them signifying those who have donated to the monument. These pavers will continue to be sold until Sept. 11, 2021, through this website as an ongoing fundraiser for the monument.
 
Sgt. 1st Class Mark Pompi said the driving force behind this memorial was Perras.
 
"From the time I got home from deployment in Afghanistan and started my work with the VFW Post here in Pittsfield, it was Arnie's dream to make this memorial a reality," Pompi said. "His contributions to these efforts cannot be understated."
 
Pompi explained that the men being honored did not enlist because of the money, they enlisted because they wanted to do something special. He described their service as "selfless service."
 
He expressed his gratitude to the Gold Star families for their loved ones' sacrifices and said it has been an honor getting to know them. 
 
Regarding the soldiers honored in the monument, he concluded with:
 
"Today when you mention any of their names, there is a revered hush, a deep respect," he said. "I think you know what I am trying to say, they have truly ascended into a place of a hero."
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