Massachusetts

Mass. Gold Star Families Honored for ‘Living Memorial Hospital' Built in Vietnam in 1970

Four Worcester County mothers who lost their sons in military action set out on a mission to have a "living memorial hospital" built in Vietnam during the war; more than half a century after its construction, those families will be honored at a day of remembrance.

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Gold star families and their loved ones killed in military action are being honored this Veterans Day in Worcester, Massachusetts.

"I was wounded in action," Vietnam veteran William Adams said, remembering his brother. "I survived, then he went over and six weeks later, come back in a coffin."

Lance Corporal George Adams of Worcester was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968.

His brother says it's a profound loss that is felt to this day.

"It's tough to lose a family member, especially, you know, your brother, but I saw what it did to my mother. It was just awful the way that she – she was never the same after that," William said Adams.

But in the months after her son's death, Adams' mother was one of four gold star mothers from Worcester County who joined together with the Vernon Hill American Legion post to turn their personal pain into a public mission – building a "living memorial hospital" in Vietnam in the middle of the war.

"These women lost their sons over there, and to them, to do this campaign that they did to get this money to build the hospital is amazing," said Vietnam veteran Philip Madaio.

The 60-bed hospital was dedicated in 1970, serving the needs of children in a war-torn, mountainous region of Vietnam that previously had no access to medical aid.

"Think of all the thousands of lives saved because these mothers wanted a hospital," said Past Vernon Hill Post Commander Frank Carroll.

Carroll and retired UMass cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Thomas Pezzella have travelled to Vietnam multiple times over the years to check on "The American Hospital," as it's become known, and to deliver medical supplies and equipment from Massachusetts hospitals.

"It is amazing, in many ways, what you can undertake when you start from the bottom up, as opposed from the top down," Pezzella said.

More than 50 years later, it's become a teaching hospital, fulfilling the dream of these gold star families from Central Massachusetts.

"At least they didn't die in vain, and their memories are being kept alive," Adams said.

On Sunday, these veterans and Gold Star Families involved in creating the living memorial hospital in Vietnam will be holding a day of remembrance at Worcester's Vernon Hill American Legion Post to honor the half century since the hospital was dedicated.

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