Massachusetts Town Debates Lights on a Tree Dedicated to Veterans

It might be the dog days of summer but for one Middleboro town leader, visions of Christmas controversy are dancing in her head.

Selectmen received a letter from the grandson of a World War I veteran stirring up again the debate over whether a tree on the Town Hall lawn dedicated to veterans should be decorated with lights during the holiday season or left alone as a solemn tribute.

Former Selectman Muriel C. Duphily was thinking snow and in the final stages of planning the Christmas festival on the Town Hall lawn when she heard about the letter.

“How can I go forward with the plans until this is settled?” said Duphily.

Last year, a group of veterans opposed her plan to put Christmas lights on a blue spruce dedicated to Patrick Regan, a World War I veteran awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The tree is part of a veterans memorial area on the Town Hall lawn.

Selectmen received the letter from Regan’s grandson, Patrick Regan, who wrote: “To turn a solemn memorial dedicated to all the soldiers who have given everything for our freedoms into a Christmas tree, somehow just does not seem appropriate to me, and trivializes that for which your memorial park was dedicated.”

Regan asked the community to re-examine how they treat the memorial park.

Selectman Stephen J. McKinnon said he will meet with the Veterans Memorial Park Committee to settle the issue once and for all.

McKinnon, a disabled Vietnam Air Force veteran, attended last year’s Christmas festival and enjoyed it.

“That’s what the Town Hall lawn is for,” McKinnon said. “If you want to go – go. If you don’t want to go – stay home.

“Our warriors fought so we can have the freedom to make our own decision. They died so we could have peace and tranquility in our town and our country,” he added. “They fought so we could go out and have a good time at Christmas.”

The decision on lighting the tree lies with selectmen.

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