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9/11/17 Keynote Address, Hopedale, MA 

Remarks at the Hopedale 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony

Thomas A. Wesley

Hopedale Board of Selectman

11 September 2017

Let Us Live to Make Men Free

Some 140 years before 9/11, in the early morning hours of November 18, 1861, Julia Ward Howe crafted the immortal words to one of our countries most beloved standards, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Its’ tune was lifted from an inspirational ode to the abolitionist John Brown but the words flowed from Ms. Howe as if possessed. She was afraid to fall asleep lest her divinely creative muse leave her. 

“As He died to make men Holy, Let us die to make men free.
His truth is marching on.” 

Civil War had engulfed these United States in fury and flame. If the salvation of mankind required the sacrifice of God’s only begotten son then surely the salvation of the Union was owed no less a offering upon the alter of freedom.

Over a number of years, the words to the Hymn were altered. The word “die” was replaced with “live.” “Let us live to make men free.” The origin of the change is unclear but perhaps it reflects a realization that the fight for freedom and justice is more complicated than the mere slaughter of lives. Paraphrasing the great American World War II General George S. Patton, “No man ever won a war by dying for his country. The idea is to have the other guy die for his.”   

But it is more than this. Much more. War should never be the inescapable alternative. At the heart of all conflict is injustice and the absence of simple human kindness. It is not only a refusal to let people in but a commitment to keeping people out. 

The War Between the States ended slavery on paper but we all know the sordid history of race relations in this country that persisted for another century and still persists to this day. The war did not teach us much. 

And this brings us to this ceremony to honor the fallen of September 11, 2001. Today marks the 16th anniversary of that horrible day that changed the lives of all of us. And not for the better. The attack left holes in our lives and in our hearts. It loosed a war with far away peoples and civilizations whose worlds we barely comprehend. Far more lives have been lost in seeking justice than in offering it. Far more treasure has been spent in seeking retribution than in showing kindness.

And this was precisely what we as a people asked our government to do. It has resulted in our nation’s longest war in our history. And this war continues today and I do not feel any more sanguine about the losses that occurred on that beautiful September morning. We have unleashed a mighty force upon our fellow man but the course of history is unaltered. Those who perished in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania are still gone. The beauty of their lives remain torn from us. And they have been met in the afterlife by thousands more casualties in the fields of combat. Met by the innocents we call collateral damage. Met by the refugees who tried to flee but perished instead. Sixteen years later we are no more secure than when we began. I beat that drum of war and retribution as hard as anyone but I feel no satisfaction.  

The most effective way to keep a weed from growing on your lawn is to have healthy grass. A weed cannot take root when the lawn is lush and verdant. But a healthy lawn will be compromised by the unhealthy ones that surround it. It is not enough to have islands of prosperity. It is impossible to keep the weeds out for the long term. Our goal must be to seek to share the prosperity; to find ways of providing for all, not only for some; to lay down the burden of protecting what is ours and recognizing that what any of us has comes not from us but from our creator.

The way lies forward through kindness, justice and humility more than through bloodshed, bullets and bombs. Rather, let us live a life that makes men free

May we have the courage to begin to change the course of human history in our lifetimes. And may we do so in the honor of those whose names are etched upon the marble walls of the 9/11 memorials and on the tombstones of the soldiers and those names blown away in the sand of unmarked graves in the deserts of the Middle East.

May it be so.

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Memorial Day 2015 Comments

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Hopedale: Wesley takes selectman seat in landslide

5.12.15 HOPEDALE – Fred Oldfield casts his ballot during the town election in Hopedale, Tuesday. Daily News Staff Photo/ John Thornton MILFORD DAILYNews Staff Photo/ John Thornton MILFORD DAILY

By Zachary Comeau/Daily News Staff

Posted May. 12, 2015 at 9:11 PM
Updated May 12, 2015 at 9:12 PM

HOPEDALE – A former GOP candidate for Congress, Tom Wesley, took the open seat on the Board of Selectmen by a landslide vote, gaining 273 votes to Park Commission Chairman Dan Iacovelli’s 60.

“It always feels better to win, but it also feels good to fight the good fight,” Wesley said after the results were announced.

Wesley, who was defeated in the 2010 race for the 2nd Congressional District seat by Richard Neal, D-Springfield, said more changes can be made in local politics.

“The issues are very real, manageable and solvable, unlike sometimes at the federal level where you’re just a voice in the wilderness,” he said. “At the local level, you can actually build coalitions, be proactive and solve some problems.”

For the first year, Wesley said he hopes to “get (his) feet wet” and understand the issues facing the town, but said he will continue to focus on education, economy and evenhandedness.

“I’m honored to be selected by the town,” Wesley said, thanking Iacovelli for running a “classy campaign.”

The seat was left vacant by Janet Jacaruso, the longtime town clerk and selectwoman who passed away last month.

“I certainly hope to do honor by the seat vacated by (Jacaruso),” he said.

Ted Kempster, Wesley’s treasurer, said Wesley spent about $1,550 on his campaign, including signs, a newspaper ad and door hangers.

Iacovelli, on the other hand, admitted outside the Draper Gym polling location Tuesday and he did not spend a single dime on his campaign.

“I think signs don’t win elections,” Iacovelli said Monday.

Hopedale resident Mark Niziak said he voted for Wesley, citing the need for a different voice and to wake up the smalltown politics.

“There’s a lot of apathy in town politics – the nature of the beast,” he said. “Hopefully (Wesley) will generate interest.”

School Committee incumbents Grace Pool, the current chairwoman, and Lori Hampsch, kept their seats for another three years.

Town Moderator Francis Larkin, a former judge and law professor, retained his seat after serving for more than 20 years.

Other incumbents who ran unopposed include Louis Arcudi III for the Board of Health, Jason MacDonald for the Housing Authority, Eli Potty for the Road Commission, Katherine Wright for Board of Library Trustees and Robert Burns for the Water and Sewer Commission.

Newcomers include Donald Howes for the Parks Commission and Barbara Oman for the Housing Authority.

According to interim Town Clerk James Mullen, the turnout was only 9 percent, and only 337 voters cast a ballot out of 3,719 registered voters.

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I Run for Hopedale

TAW Profile

When my family pulled up roots to move to Hopedale 10 years ago our neighbor’s young boy waved goodbye and said, “There’s always hope in Hopedale.” And he was right.
There was hope when Adin Ballou founded the Utopian town early in the 19th century. Hope was restored when the Draper brothers moved their plant to Hopedale. And hope remained when the Draper plant shut down in the 1970’s. Those visionaries gave us a terrific ride for more than a century. Nothing lasts forever and the torch has been passed to this generation as stewards of a great legacy.

Hopedale is once again poised to become a hub of economic activity in the region. Imagine the Draper properties reused to accommodate our new rail traffic and the potential of a commuter rail station. Or the possibility of a mixed use building with apartments, shopping, performing arts center, new town offices, and quarters for our seniors and for our children.
Imagine our school system aligned to support both the career aspirations of its students and the job needs of the region. Imagine a school as rich in the arts as well as the sciences. Imagine a town tranquil enough to raise our children and vibrant enough to entice them to stay as adults.
Imagine a town excited about the opportunities of the present and enthusiastic about the prospects for the future that encourages widespread participation in town government.
And imagine a town that supports evenhandedness across the needs of multiple generations.
Hope alone is not a strategy. Hopedale must develop a strategic vision and work towards its fulfillment year over year. We must have the confidence to see over the horizon and use our long term vision as a guide. At the same time we must continue to look around each corner to ensure we are maintaining our fiscal diligence to keep Hopedale affordable for all who live and work here.
God has granted me the talent to lead and I never shrink from that responsibility. Much is at stake in every election and this one is no different. It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.
I run for Hopedale.

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Remarks on Memorial Day 2014 Hopedale, Massachusetts

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May 28, 2014 · 9:29 pm

Remarks on Memorial Day 2014: Hopedale, MA

Just yesterday I took an early morning walk through this beautiful cemetery. The grounds are perfectly kept; the grass green and trimmed; the leaves on the trees are in full bloom. We can always count upon that.

What struck me in the morning mist was the abundance of American flags that mark the graves of each veteran who is interred here. We may thank the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for that respectful act of kindness each year.

Then I came to this very spot and reviewed the names inscribed on our War Memorial. There are 26 names listed here. They are citizens of Hopedale, Massachusetts, who gave their lives in service to this country during time of war. The list dates back to the Spanish American War. There were several
Hopedale residents who fought with valor in the Civil War.

Our town was settled in 1842 and, ever since, each generation has been touched by war. As I looked at the flags yesterday morning I was taken by the fact that those young Scouts who decorated the gravestones have never known peace in their lifetime. During the course of their short lives Americans have died in conflicts in Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Their parents’ lives have been touched by war deaths in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Grenada, Panama and Vietnam; and their Grandparents by Korea and the Second World War.

Even in times absent of conflict we are never far from war, the recollections of war and the consequences of war. It is our oral history that connects the generations. The last survivor of the American Revolution died just after the Civil War and the last survivor of the Civil War died just after I was born. We have ceremonies such as this to honor our war dead, to be sure. But in so honoring them we are ensuring that our present and future generations never forget how high a cost our freedom demands.

Plato reminds us that only the dead have seen the last of war. That axiom has stood the test of time for 2500 years. But it does not mean that peace is defined as the absence of war. There are things worth fighting for. And if they are worth fighting for then one must be ready to bear the highest price of all, death.

For the names etched upon these granite tablets I wish I could tell you that each death was meaningful. I cannot attest to that for they were sent into battle by mere mortals. But I can attest that each life was meaningful. We can tell the stories of how they lived and how we loved them; stories of how they touched our lives and those of others; stories of how they left their mark on society, even if only for a short while.

We, of course, honor our war dead this day and it is right that we do so. But just as cemeteries are for the living, ceremonies are for the living, too. We use them to connect with our past and to stay faithful to our traditions. They serve to bind us in a common heritage. Sometimes that heritage is not fully recognized.

For instance, the National Honor Society at Hopedale High School just inducted their newest members this past week. Did you know that the National Honor Society chapter is named in memory of Second Lieutenant Francis Wallace? Francis was the class president and Valedictorian of his high school class in 1937. He lived on Inman Street, graduated with distinction and went on to the US Naval Academy. He entered active duty in the Army Air Corps on December 13, 1941, less than one week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. One year later on New Year’s Eve 1942, he was dead; killed in action when his plane went missing in the South Pacific. Little more is known about the circumstances.
It has been 77 years since Francis Wallace graduated from Hopedale High School. For you many Hopedale High School students in the band or in the audience today, you share a common bond now with one of the names on this tablet. You are fellow alumni.

The dead that we honor here today answered the call of their country because their country asked. Some died in conflict, some died in training; some died alongside a comrade in arms, some died alone. All died in noble service to their country.

To serve this country in uniform is a mighty experience. To serve alongside people of honor and courage is a privilege known by too few of us. This brotherhood was described by William Shakespeare in the now famous St. Crispin’s day speech from Henry V written more than 400 years ago:
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

I will close with a quotation from the great American General George S. Patton:
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

Thank you. And may God bless the souls of our fellow countryman.

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On Memorial Day 2013

July 2013 will mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that marked the cease-fire in Korea. It is often referred to as America’s “Forgotten War.” Indeed it was a conflict that marked a turning point in modern warfare. It was a war sanctioned by the United Nations and resulted in an outcome of something less than unconditional surrender of the enemy. Korea marked the first stalemate of the Cold War and it was not to be the last. Difficult to comprehend; it was a war of geopolitics and hegemony played out under the pall of an unthinkable third world war. Indeed, the threat of additional conflict in Korea conflict lingers to this very day.

How could Korea become The Forgotten War? How could America forget the 2 million casualties of that intensely brutal war that lasted a mere 37 months? How could America forget its 34,000 sons who died at the rate of nearly 1000 per week?

I am here to tell you the story one man from a small town in Massachusetts who went to Korea as a mere mortal and returned with a touch of immortality, never to be forgotten. He was an extremely bright and charming young man who left college early to enlist in the Marines in September 1950. He returned to Hopedale briefly that Christmas after completing basic training at Parris Island and deployed with the 1st Marine Division in Korea on January 28, 1951.

By now, the Communist Chinese Army, the Red Army, was fully engaged in the conflict and had been since their unexpected entry during the previous winter at Chosin Reservoir that nearly drove the Marines Corps into the sea. Now the 1st Marine Division were up against them in an area known as the Punchbowl, a dormant volcano lying in treacherous mountain terrain. The fighting was as fierce as it was at Chosin. Many new replacements were now engaged in seemingly constant battle against the enemy. The Marine Corps Gazette reported it this way:

Mountains were no novelty to Marines with Korean experience but they had seldom seen as chaotic a landscape as the one stretching ahead. Peaks of 3000 feet brooded over a wilderness of seemingly vertical ridges rising from dark and narrow valleys. Few roads were available and the frequent spring rains turned these native trails into bogs.

Battles took place daily against a fierce and entrenched foe. Day long battles were fought for territory gains of only several thousand yards. During the first 10 days of June 1951, the 1st Marine Division lost 67 men killed in action. Those loses were higher than any other month in the war; higher than during the famous Chosin Reservoir operation.

Among those dead was Corporal Richard J. Griffin. He received shrapnel wounds in battle on June 9, was evacuated and died aboard the hospital ship USS Haven on June 16, 1951. He had been a Marine for less than one year, in Korea for less than 5 months, and now he was coming home to be laid to his final rest.

Dick Griffin lived on Cemetery Street, just a few hundred yards from where we stand and his grave is in this cemetery where we honor him today along with so many others who fought and died in defense of our country. We in Hopedale have not forgotten our son from The Forgotten War.

In October of 1964, the Town of Hopedale dedicated a new 40 unit apartment complex for the elderly in his honor. Richard Griffin had been remembered once again for the lives that he had touched. A young attorney who knew Dick Griffin presided over the dedication. Perhaps these words capture the soul of the young man who died too young. He said:

Whoever coined the ancient proverb that ‘the good die young’ had such as Dick Griffin in mind. Dick had all the gentler qualities- loyalty, modesty, courtesy and a sense of the appropriate- to a degree unusual in a person so young and an unselfishness unique in a person of any age…He was truly one of those whom William James call ‘the once born.’

That young attorney was our own Judge Francis J. Larkin. Colonel Francis J. Larkin. We thank him for keeping alive the memory of his dear friend Dick Griffin and for keeping him closer to our own hearts. And we thank him for keeping alive this fine tradition of commemoration with our Memorial Day parade. He has shouldered this great burden for many years and is now ready to pass the torch to another generation of thankful Americans.

Finally, in November 1994, this monument was dedicated to all of the veterans of Hopedale, some 159 of whom served during the Korean War era. This stone behind me commemorates the memory of Richard J. Griffin, forever etched in granite, as the single Hopedale resident killed in action in Korea.

This member of “The Silent Generation” who fought in “The Forgotten War” shall never be forgotten in Hopedale. Corporal Richard J. Griffin, may you rest in eternal peace alongside and with your fellow comrades-in-arms. So long as this granite stone bears your name and Americans remain grateful of their heritage the memory of your life and service shall never fade.

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