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Lee’s Memorial Day service honored local heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country

Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Lee High School band, and students all took part part in the moving ceremony.

Lee — A Lee resident for more than 40 years, military veteran Gary Fix served his tour of duty in 1968, on an armored personnel carrier in Vietnam. On Memorial Day, his thoughts focused on his three friends as well as other soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. Although Fix’s gunner, vehicle commander, and guard were killed in monthly succession from April through June of 1968, his injuries weren’t visible from the outside. “I had so much guilt for being alive when my friends were dead, I was in very bad shape,” he said.

Halfway to becoming an alcoholic, Fix sought help from the Veterans Affairs (VA) and was assigned a psychiatrist—a 70-year-old woman who had never seen combat nor served in the military. “I couldn’t relate what I went through to her,” he said. The physician treated him with narcotics so he “could sleep at night without nightmares,” but Fix gave up on those measures after about a year since they interfered with his daily life, stopping “cold turkey.”

He found another way to heal. “I looked up the families of my three friends who were killed, and I visited each one of them,” Fix said. “I tell you, I got more therapy out of visiting those families than I ever did from that psychiatrist.”

The families he met were grateful that someone who knew their loved ones would make the effort to come by and talk to them, reminiscing over photographs Fix took while overseas.

“When you don’t talk about [post-traumatic stress disorder] and you keep it all bottled up inside, that’s when you have problems,” he said.

These days, Fix said he “is doing okay.” He has figured out a way to gain some solace from reunions with other veterans, especially those soldiers who fought in the same battles as he did, including the Tet Offensive of 1968 that focused on coordinated attacks of South Vietnamese targets. At the start of that engagement, on January 31, Communist Viet Cong forces attacked the American Embassy in Saigon, with those measures resulting in heavy casualties. That was the day Fix landed at the city’s Tan Son Nhut Air Base on a commercial TWA flight to start his one-year tour, eyeing two tanks on fire at the end of the runway. In 1973, the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam.

Each time Fix relates the story of his survival, he feels somewhat stronger. “It used to be that if I told that story, tears would be running down my cheeks,” he said. “I can tell it now, and I can tell it to other soldiers, and I can tell it to civilians. Each time I tell it, it’s a little bit more healing.”

Adorned with honors and badges on his Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) uniform, Fix sat in the front row of the Lee Middle and High School auditorium during the May 27 Memorial Day ceremony that featured the school’s band, as well as three students selected by history teacher and National Honor Society advisor Johnathan Hall to present readings. This year, those recitations included, “What is a veteran,” General Logan’s 1868 orders establishing Memorial Day, and The Gettysburg Address as presented by Megan Fountain, Connor Lewis, and Annie Herman.

Lee High School student Megan Fountain recites “What is a veteran” for the audience at the town’s Memorial Day service as the Lee Middle and High School Band listens. Also pictured: VFW Post 893 Commander Glenn Posey (left) and Junior Vice Commander Timothy Wilson. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

Memorial Day honors and mourns those U.S. military personnel who have died in service to their country.

Chaplin Scott Gagnon provided the invocation prayer as a representative of host VFW Bossidy-Crerar Post 893 that, having received its charter on March 10, 1922, is one of the oldest such posts in the Berkshires.

Junior Vice Commander Timothy Wilson read the names of Lee service men and women who died in U.S. battles from the Civil War forward, while Grand Marshall William Roache and his wife Lucy decorated the veterans memorial wreath.

The Honor Guard included Commander Glenn Posey, John Turner Jr., Glen Wilcox, Bill Hall, Daniel Turner, Brian McPheron, and Trevor Lanahan.

Lee VFW Post 893 members John Turner Jr. (left) and Bill Hall commemorate Memorial Day during the town’s May 27 ceremony. Photo by Leslee Bassman.
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