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Northampton salutes veterans with parade and ceremony

  • Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette of South Hadley, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his son Josh, 3, salute as the a cappella group the Northamptones sings the National Anthem during Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette of South Hadley, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his son Josh, 3, salute as the a cappella group the Northamptones sings the National Anthem during Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.
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  • Gina Willette and her sons, Josh, 3, left, and Zack, 1, of South Hadley wait for the start of Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday. Willette's husband, Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette,a Purple Heart veteran of the war in Afghanistan, was also attending.<br/><br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Gina Willette and her sons, Josh, 3, left, and Zack, 1, of South Hadley wait for the start of Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday. Willette's husband, Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette,a Purple Heart veteran of the war in Afghanistan, was also attending.

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  • Jose Alicen, left, 6, of Easthampton, Gabriel Nieves, 6, of Connecticut, Laylah Alicen, 5, of Easthampton and Kamila and Marcos Nieves, 5 and 3, of Connecticut cheer the Veterans Day parade as it passes on Main Street in Northampton on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Jose Alicen, left, 6, of Easthampton, Gabriel Nieves, 6, of Connecticut, Laylah Alicen, 5, of Easthampton and Kamila and Marcos Nieves, 5 and 3, of Connecticut cheer the Veterans Day parade as it passes on Main Street in Northampton on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton mayor David Narkewicz, left, presents Vietnam veteran Wayne Lynch a citation from the Massachusetts legislature recognizing his 34 years of service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. The presentation, a surprise to Lynch, was part of the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Northampton mayor David Narkewicz, left, presents Vietnam veteran Wayne Lynch a citation from the Massachusetts legislature recognizing his 34 years of service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. The presentation, a surprise to Lynch, was part of the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Veterans Council of Northampton president Brad LeVay, at podium, leads the Veterans Day ceremony attended by about 200 people in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Veterans Council of Northampton president Brad LeVay, at podium, leads the Veterans Day ceremony attended by about 200 people in Pulaski Park on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Navy veteran John Janse takes part in the color guard for Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Navy veteran John Janse takes part in the color guard for Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marine veterans Colleen Cauley, left, and Tom Coogan, joined by Army veterans Juan Perez and Paul Clevenger, right, take part in Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Marine veterans Colleen Cauley, left, and Tom Coogan, joined by Army veterans Juan Perez and Paul Clevenger, right, take part in Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Veterans John Janse, left, (Navy), Joe Ryznic (Army) and Bob Joy (Air Force), representing the Navy, Army and Air Force, respectively, take part in the Veterans Day program on the Amherst Town Common.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Veterans John Janse, left, (Navy), Joe Ryznic (Army) and Bob Joy (Air Force), representing the Navy, Army and Air Force, respectively, take part in the Veterans Day program on the Amherst Town Common.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton mayor David Narkewicz, center, presents Vietnam veteran Wayne Lynch, right, a citation from the Massachusetts legislature recognizing his 34 years of service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. The presentation, a surprise to Lynch, was part of the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday. Brad LeVay, president of the Veterans Council of Northampton, is at far left.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Northampton mayor David Narkewicz, center, presents Vietnam veteran Wayne Lynch, right, a citation from the Massachusetts legislature recognizing his 34 years of service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. The presentation, a surprise to Lynch, was part of the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday. Brad LeVay, president of the Veterans Council of Northampton, is at far left.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton High School freshman trumpeter Jarrod Mayer plays "Tears in Heaven" with the school band during the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Northampton High School freshman trumpeter Jarrod Mayer plays "Tears in Heaven" with the school band during the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Andrew Cooper, center, in white, conducts the Northampton High School Band in "This Train is Bound for Glory" to close the Veterans Day ceremony for about 200 people in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Andrew Cooper, center, in white, conducts the Northampton High School Band in "This Train is Bound for Glory" to close the Veterans Day ceremony for about 200 people in Pulaski Park on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Col. James Keefe, vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, speaks at Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Col. James Keefe, vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, speaks at Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Col. James Keefe, vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, speaks at Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Col. James Keefe, vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, speaks at Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette of South Hadley, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his son Josh, 3, salute as the a cappella group the Northamptones sings the National Anthem during Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette of South Hadley, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his son Josh, 3, salute as the a cappella group the Northamptones sings the National Anthem during Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette of South Hadley, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his son Josh, 3, salute as the a cappella group the Northamptones sings the National Anthem during Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Gina Willette and her sons, Josh, 3, left, and Zack, 1, of South Hadley wait for the start of Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday. Willette's husband, Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette,a Purple Heart veteran of the war in Afghanistan, was also attending.<br/><br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Jose Alicen, left, 6, of Easthampton, Gabriel Nieves, 6, of Connecticut, Laylah Alicen, 5, of Easthampton and Kamila and Marcos Nieves, 5 and 3, of Connecticut cheer the Veterans Day parade as it passes on Main Street in Northampton on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Northampton mayor David Narkewicz, left, presents Vietnam veteran Wayne Lynch a citation from the Massachusetts legislature recognizing his 34 years of service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. The presentation, a surprise to Lynch, was part of the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Veterans Council of Northampton president Brad LeVay, at podium, leads the Veterans Day ceremony attended by about 200 people in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Navy veteran John Janse takes part in the color guard for Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Marine veterans Colleen Cauley, left, and Tom Coogan, joined by Army veterans Juan Perez and Paul Clevenger, right, take part in Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Veterans John Janse, left, (Navy), Joe Ryznic (Army) and Bob Joy (Air Force), representing the Navy, Army and Air Force, respectively, take part in the Veterans Day program on the Amherst Town Common.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Northampton mayor David Narkewicz, center, presents Vietnam veteran Wayne Lynch, right, a citation from the Massachusetts legislature recognizing his 34 years of service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. The presentation, a surprise to Lynch, was part of the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday. Brad LeVay, president of the Veterans Council of Northampton, is at far left.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Northampton High School freshman trumpeter Jarrod Mayer plays "Tears in Heaven" with the school band during the Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Andrew Cooper, center, in white, conducts the Northampton High School Band in "This Train is Bound for Glory" to close the Veterans Day ceremony for about 200 people in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Col. James Keefe, vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, speaks at Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Col. James Keefe, vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, speaks at Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Brian Willette of South Hadley, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his son Josh, 3, salute as the a cappella group the Northamptones sings the National Anthem during Northampton's Veterans Day ceremony in Pulaski Park on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Lynch, who retired in July, admitted to being a tad surprised when Mayor David J. Narkewicz asked him to step to the podium shortly after the ceremony in Pulaski Park began. Once there, Lynch accepted an award from the state House of Representatives in honor of his 42 years of federal service, including a long career in which he helped veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I didn’t know this was coming. ... Thank you very much. It’s a special day,” said Lynch, noting that he would have brought his wife had he known.

The Northampton native spent eight years in the Army and did a tour in Vietnam, where he was injured. He then spent the next 34 years at the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in Leeds, where he worked as an admissions coordinator for Ward 8, a 25-bed Specialized Inpatient Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Unit. Hospital officials have said that Lynch helped create one of the premier PTSD specialized units in the nation.

Sunday’s recognition was extra sweet because it came in front of dozens of veterans who attended the city’s Veterans Day parade under unseasonable warm temperatures and sunny skies.

“It’s a nice recognition,” Lynch, who lives in Pelham, said after the ceremony. “I didn’t want to retire, but after 42 years it was time.”

Northampton’s annual salute to veterans featured dozens of organizations, many veterans in uniform and out, city leaders and more. The parade began at Lampron Park near Bridge Street School, continued down Bridge to Main Street and ended at Pulaski Park, where about 200 people attended a ceremony and listened to honored veteran Col. James Keefe of the Air National Guard give the keynote address.

Keefe, a native of Northampton who lives in Florence, sought to recognize all veterans past and present, from those who stood up to the British 200-plus years ago to those who for the last two decades have fought a war on global terrorism.

“We owe them all that we have become,” said Keefe, the vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield. “Today is our chance to thank those who have selflessly answered the call to duty and to remember what they have earned for us.”

Keefe entered the Air Force in 1987 and has served in a variety of positions since then, including flight instructor, flight commander, flying safety officer and flying squadron commander.

In his speech, Keefe highlighted the important role that the armed forces have off the battlefield when it comes to protecting citizens against man-made and natural disasters such as Sept. 11 and the more recent devestation from superstorm Sandy. This goodwill also takes place in other countries as well, he noted.

“The men and women of our armed forces are not only warriors but ambassadors,” he said.

Keefe also recognized the families of veterans, who make sacrifices right alongside those who serve, he said.

“Make no mistake, it is still the greatest nation in the world thanks to those who have defended it,” he said.

Marty Dembinske, a U.S. Navy veteran from South Hadley who marched in the parade with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 92, said he was proud to be among men and women who volunteered to serve their country. He marched in the parade to display that pride, he said.

“I want everyone to know they are the best,” Dembinske said.

Another veteran, William Aherin, who helps lead the Boy Scout contingent that marches in the parade, said it’s important to participate each year.

“To me, there are a certain few that actually step forward (and serve), when a lot of people will look back,” said Aherin, a U.S. Air Force veteran and Southampton resident who used to live in Florence.

Many children in attendance Sunday are not old enough to join the military, but their parents said it’s important for the youngsters to be aware of the sacrifices others have made for this country.

U.S. Navy veteran David Felty and his wife, Lisa, brought four of their five children Sunday.

“As a veteran myself, just knowing that the community supports the decisions that have been made and the sacrifices that you make, I think it’s very important for them to see it and learn at an early age what it means to serve their country,” said Felty, who served in the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.

The Feltys have also founded a program called Homeward Vets that provides to furniture and other items to homeless veterans who are transitioning to permanent housing, and Lisa Felty works with the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.

There were many tributes to veterans on display Sunday, including canon and musket firing from those representing the 9th and 10th Massachusetts Regiment Volunteers and music from the Northamptones and the Northampton High School band.

Sunday’s ceremony also featured Narkewicz, who read a proclamation honoring all veterans, and most City Council members.

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