October 7, 2016
“We tell them, ‘Your questions are our therapy,’” Mr. Polaski said as Friday’s crop of students – 170 eighth-graders from Lowell – pulled up in four buses. “All’s we do is hope somebody remembers it.”WORCESTER – “What was it like to kill your first person?” the first student asked Phil Madaio as the morning sun shone on the chiseled slabs of stone that forge the state’s Vietnam memorial.
“Not good,” the Vietnam veteran replied in a deep, gravelly voice. “But you can’t think about that long or you’ll be laying there next to him.”
Grim truths abounded Friday as four veterans shared their experiences at Green Hill Park. The sessions are not always easy, but the men, part of a local group called Vietnam Veterans for the Community, know that while granite lasts forever, they will not.
“It’s living history,” Casey Polaski, 68, told a collection of students gathered in front of the memorial’s seminal structure, a ring of granite slabs bearing the names of the 1,547 dead or missing soldiers from Massachusetts.
Dedicated in 2002, the memorial this summer was approved for $200,000 in repairs and $50,000 in annual maintenance. Mr. Madaio, Mr. Polaski and their friends are always shocked at how many people don’t know it exists; they offer tours here often, speaking for men who cannot, and sharing a burden they will always carry.
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