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Middleborough

Efforts underway for monument to women veterans

A new group in Middleborough wants to add a monument to women veterans at Veterans Memorial Park.

Michele Morgan Bolton for The Boston Globe

A new group in Middleborough wants to add a monument to women veterans at Veterans Memorial Park.

MIDDLEBOROUGH — A serene brick-and-granite memorial park at Middleborough Town Hall pays homage to military service over the past 338 years, from the town’s earliest residents who fought in the 1675 King Philip’s War to those who are enlisted today.

But while the park’s benches and stark monuments are a visual reminder of service and sacrifice, a new veterans committee says one important group has been omitted — the military’s women — and it has initiated efforts to honor those members.

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“Female veterans historically have not had a lot of recognition,’’ said Michelle Hamilton, who served in the Army in the Vietnam War era.

“If it were not for women in the military, a lot of jobs would not get done,” the 55-year-old said.

There have been various efforts to honor women veterans around the state, including the museum exhibit “Women Protecting US” at Battleship Cove in Fall River, and monuments in Marshfield and Sharon, according to information provided by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services.

Plans are taking final shape for a memorial in New Bedford, and a monument to the women of World War II in Revere will be dedicated in September, officials said.

Nationally, a memorial to women veterans has been in place at Arlington National Cemetery since 1993. A statue dedicated that same year to the women who served in Vietnam is part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington.

In Middleborough, Hamilton, who owns an acupuncture practice in town, and four other women veterans from the wars in Vietnam to the Persian Gulf have formed the Middleborough Committee for Women Veterans Memorial Park, focused on finding a lasting way to honor women at the existing memorial park on South Main Street.

Hamilton and members J.M. Chestna, Nikki Colburn, Betty Rollins, and Mary Standish, with help and support from town veterans services agent Paul Provencher, are working with a local artist to design a fitting monument that would be installed just to the right of the circle at the site.

Ideas for the monument include the display of a female image, the current version of the American flag, and the one made famous in Revolutionary times by seamstress and patriot Betsy Ross.

The name of Nina Seymour, a nurse who lost her life in World War I, is engraved in a memorial to veterans at Middleborough’s Veterans Memorial Park.

Michele Morgan Bolton for the Boston Globe

The name of Nina Seymour, a nurse who lost her life in World War I, is engraved in a memorial to veterans at Middleborough’s Veterans Memorial Park.

It would contain the insignias of the five branches of the military — Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard — and is expected to cost around $5,000, Hamilton said.

Plans for any kind of a new memorial cannot go forward, though, until the concept and design pass muster with the town’s Historical Commission, Board of Selectmen, and Memorial Park Committee, which was behind the construction of the park in 2003.

Hamilton said the rendering should be ready by the end of September, after which the group can begin to make the rounds.

The response so far has been encouraging, according to the women veterans memorial committee. Since word of the project began to get around, about $1,000 has been raised. A spaghetti supper fund-raiser at the Middleborough Elks Club on Oct. 4 should help bring in more support, Hamilton said.

“It’s a deserving tribute and it should be here,’’ said Colburn, 41, who served in the Navy from 1993 to 1997, following the footsteps of her father and grandfather. “Women have never been drafted. They have always volunteered.”

Provencher, who is a veteran of the Vietnam War, said the idea sprang from discussions at a service to honor veterans in New Bedford, which led to the planned memorial there to honor female service members.

That made him wonder why Middleborough had never taken the same step, Provencher said.

As a veterans agent, he said, he has worked with female veterans who have held all sorts of jobs in the military and then needed to be connected to Veterans Administration services and other support systems upon their return.

The memory of a conversation with one woman in particular still gives him pause, he said, after she described her desperate efforts to stop the bleeding of a soldier who had had his limbs blown off. Many are treated for trauma, he said.

“They touch my heart differently,’’ Provencher said, because of the nature, at times, of the horrific things women have had to experience. “They are doing heroic things.”

Although there is no individual monument to date, Middleborough has honored the women who have served in the military over the years in remarks on Veterans Day, Historical Commission chairwoman Jane Lopes said. The best known among those women is Deborah Sampson, she said, a resident who disguised herself as a Continental soldier in 1782 in order to serve in the Revolutionary War.

The name of Nina Seymour, a Red Cross nurse who lost her life during World War I, is engraved into a larger monument at the park’s center among the names of men who also died.

“I think a tribute to Middleborough’s women in uniform would reinforce the respect we all have for the courageous women who have served, and continue to serve, in the military,” said Lopes.

While the project still needs approval from the town, support seems already strong, Selectman Allin Frawley said, which is not a surprise: “I can’t see any reason someone would want to oppose it.”

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.
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