Note: FY 2021 is last year (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021). The report was prepared to cover the business for the FY 2021 period. This year’s report FY 2022 (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) is in preparation now and is normally available for distribution at the polls for the November election.
The Veterans’ Service Officer (VSO) serves veterans and their dependents in recognition of their service to our nation. Responsibilities of the VSO include educating veterans and their dependents about the benefits available to them, dispensing state sponsored veterans’ benefits under M.G.L. Chapter 115 and assisting veterans and their dependents or survivors in obtaining state and federal benefits or entitlements which they have earned.
In addition to my responsibilities to the veterans of Franklin, I serve as the Veterans’ Services Advocate for Norfolk County and as the VSO for the Town of Avon. Norfolk County is the only county in the Commonwealth to have an individual dedicated to Veterans’ Services. Through an agreement between the Town and the County, I am able to continue to support the VSO’s in the 28 cities and towns of Norfolk County while primarily servicing the Franklin veterans’ community.
As our veterans and their dependents/survivors age, there are more demands for benefits provided by the Commonwealth’s Department of Veterans’ Services and the U. S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. During the past year, there has been an increase in the number of Franklin veterans who have recently completed their military service.
It is very important that veterans and widows identify themselves on the town census. This information enables the VSO to identify services available to them. I encourage all veterans and widows/widowers of veterans to contact the Veterans’ Services Office.
The VSO attends as many civic events as possible during the year at schools and civic groups. The VSO is always willing to attend an event to speak about veterans, veterans’ benefits, the military experience or to support a patriotic event. I invite other veterans to attend such events. If you are interested in attending any event, please contact our office. I also work with Boy Scouts and other students who are interested in community service projects when they are available.
Franklin Veterans’ Council
The Franklin Veterans’ Council meets on the third Thursday of the month at 7:00 pm, at the Franklin Senior Center. The Council stopped meeting during the closing of the Senior Center, but resumed meetings either in person or via video meetings. Dates, times and meeting locations are posted on the Veterans’ Services web page. All veterans and any interested individual or organization are welcome to attend. This group serves as a communications outlet for veteran and military-related events and activities in the community as well as an opportunity for veterans to obtain information about state and federal benefits and changes. The Council is chaired by the VSO.
Franklin Veterans Memorial Walkway
Families may continue to honor their veterans and active duty family members by purchasing an engraved brick for the Memorial Walkway on the Town common. Bricks are installed on the Walkway prior to Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day each year. In May, a Franklin High School fundraising group (BALT) made a donation to the Walkway fund which was used to purchase bricks for those Franklin fallen heroes who did not have an engraved brick on the Walkway. The administrative processing of the brick orders and installation is handled by the Veterans’ Services Office. Brick order forms are available in the Town Hall and Senior Center lobbies and on the Veterans’ Services page on the Town website.
Veterans’ Coffee Socials
The Veterans’ Coffee Socials continued to grow as an opportunity for veterans to have a cup of coffee, tea or water together and to talk with other veterans. The socials are held the first Wednesday of the month at 10 a.m.at the Senior Center. The VSO joined in to provide updates on benefits when needed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coffee Socials were held virtually via Zoom at the regularly scheduled days and times. We must recognize the wonderful team at Starbucks which attends all of our socials and provides coffee and pastry when we are able to meet together. Starbucks team members continued to join our socials via video when the Senior Center was closed.
Veterans’ Day Program
Due to the pandemic, we were unable to host the annual Veterans’ Day Luncheon. In lieu of an event, we videotaped a Veterans’ Day program which aired on Franklin’s All Access Community TV. Several Franklin veterans volunteered to speak about what Veterans’ Day means to them and what it means to be a veteran. Many thanks to Chris Flynn of Franklin TV for videotaping and producing this program.
The annual Memorial Day Breakfast and parade were cancelled due to the pandemic. Local veterans and boys and girls scout groups placed memorial wreaths at Dean College, St. Mary’s and Union Street cemeteries and at the war memorials on the Town Common.
Thank you to Rabbi Thomas Alpert, Rev. Kathy McAdams, Father Brian Manning, American Legion Commander John Milot, VFW Commander Larry Bederian, State Representative Jeffrey Roy, writer Angela Baker, CSM (Ret) Herman Anderson, the American Legion Rifle Squad, members of VFW Post 3402, Franklin Facilities and the Franklin Police Department for their participation in the Memorial Day observance on the Common which was held in remembrance of our deceased veterans. Thank you also to Franklin veteran Steve Pezzella who sang the National Anthem at the ceremony which was videotaped by Chris Flynn and aired on Franklin’s All Access Community TV. The names of Franklin veterans who had passed since last Memorial Day were read during the ceremony. I also made remarks about Veterans’ Services including: VA benefits, the Chair of Honor, the Veterans’ Council, our Coffee Socials, Purple Heart Day and our Monuments Restoration project.
Purple Heart Community
Franklin is a Purple Heart Community. This designation demonstrates that our town recognizes and honors Franklin service members who received the Purple Heart award for being wounded or killed in enemy combat. Our office has created a registry of Franklin residents who are Purple Heart recipients. We will recognize those recipients on August 7, National Purple Heart Day, each year. Signs have been installed at the town’s entry points, designating Franklin as a Purple Heart Community. If you or a family member from Franklin is a Purple Heart recipient, please contact our office.
“Veterans Call” is a TV program for and about veterans hosted by the VSO and airs on Franklin’s All Access Community TV station. Program topics have included Social Security and Mass Health. Taping of programs was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but have resumed. If you have program suggestions, please contact the VSO.
Chair of Honor
The Chair of Honor resided at the Franklin Senior Center most of this year. We look forward to rotating the chair through other Town buildings and schools soon.
Display Case at the Town Hall
Our office maintains the veterans’ display case in the Town Hall lobby. We update the display several times a year. The displays focus on Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day and other veteran-centric historical events as well as feature veterans in our community. If you have ideas for our display case, please contact our office.
Other Events and Activities
There is now a designated VETERAN parking space in front of the Franklin Municipal building.
I am happy to report that our office applied for and received an $18,338 Massachusetts SHRAB (State Historic Records Advisory Board) Grant in April 2021. Funds from this grant will be used towards the Military Monument Restoration Project on the Town Common which is scheduled to begin in the fall.
Our office has started a learn-to-play-guitar program for veterans which meets on Tuesday evenings at the Senior Center. The program, called Tune It Out, is loosely based on the Guitar4Vets program. Research suggests that active music engagement reduces anxiety, increases relaxation levels and improves overall well-being. Franklin Music instructor Jamie Barrett is giving introductory lessons along with several other volunteers. We are very grateful for
Jamie’s commitment to this program as well as the generous donations of guitars and funds we have received from members of the community. Veterans may call the VSO to sign up for classes.
COVID-19 Response Activities
The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for our veterans and our office. We coordinated the delivery of over 100 boxes of food to needy veterans and families as everyone settled into our new and hopefully temporary routines. We are most thankful to our veterans and other volunteers who assisted with our food pick-ups and deliveries.
Veterans’ Services thanks these faithful supporters:
• The Franklin Garden Club for the care and maintenance of the Veterans’ Memorial on the Town Common.
• Elks Lodge #2136, BPOE, for their continued support of Franklin’s veterans including the sponsorship of the Veterans’ Day Luncheon, and the veterans’ fuel assistance program. Elks Lodge #2136 conducts numerous events during the year in support of our veterans in local VA facilities.
• VFW Post 3402 for their assistance with the placement of flags on the graves of our deceased veterans for Memorial Day, their donation of poppies and their ongoing support and attention to Franklin’s veterans.
• American Legion, Edward L. Grant, Post 75 for their support of our veterans and their participation in our Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day events. Post 75 visits local private medical and VA facilities to support and recognize our veterans. Members of Post 75, led by John Hefele, are also volunteering their time to spruce up veterans’ gravesites at St. Mary’s cemetery.
• The Friends of Franklin Elders for their support of activities for our veterans.
• The staff of the Franklin Senior Center for their daily support of the Veterans’ Services Office.
• Franklin High School music department for the support of our events.
• The many departments in the Town of Franklin that support our veterans’ programs. It is a total town team effort to accomplish all that we do.
• The citizens of Franklin for your support of our veterans and active duty service members.
Although, federal and state definitions of veterans are very specific as to time and component served for qualification for benefits, I hold to this definition of a veteran:
A veteran is someone – whether active duty, retired, National Guard or Reserve, served one day or twenty years – who at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to the Government of the United States of America for an amount of “up to and including my life.”
If you are a veteran or a family member of a veteran and have a question or need any assistance, please contact our office. If you know of a veteran who may need a little support or just someone to talk with, contact our office.
Thank you for your service.
I am honored to serve Franklin’s veterans and their families.
Dale L. Kurtz
Veterans’ Service Officer