For 41 years now, Gloucester resident Edmund J. Veator has been a member of the city’s AMVETS Post 32, supporting projects aimed at helping veterans across Cape Ann and beyond.
“We’ll go down to the Soldiers Home in Chelsea, do a couple of parties with the patients there, take them out to eat at a good Route 1 restaurant a couple of times a year,” he said Wednesday, noting some of the efforts he has led and joined in over the years.
“Most of the soldiers there are in wheelchairs,” said Veator, who has also served as a past state commander and regional district commander of the local Sons of AMVETS division. “So they wouldn’t really get out if somebody didn’t go down there and take them.”
Now, the national AMVETS organization has reached out and recognized Veator for his service to America’s veterans through the local Sons of AMVETS chapter. Friday night, he was honored at a dinner in Washington, D.C., and presented with one of AMVETS’ national Silver Helmet Awards.
Veator was one of six Silver Helmet winners overall, including “Wonder Woman” actress Lynda Carter and TV talk show host and veteran Montell Williams, both hailed for their humanitarian service to vets and raising awareness of veterans issues.
Veator is the first Gloucester Post 32 member to win a national Silver Helmet honor in the 62-year history of the local AMVETS post, and is believed to be the first in the state, Post 32 Commander Victor Anido said Wednesday.
“It’s a great honor. It’s a tremendous reflection on all that he has done and all that Post 32 has done,” Anido said. “We’re very proud.”
Those sentiments were shared by Adam Curcuru, the director of the Cape Ann Veterans Services Center on Emerson Avenue. Curcuru joined Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken in welcoming Veator and Anido at City Hall Wednesday for a brief reception.
“It’s a great award for Ed,” said Curcuru. “It shows and recognizes his commitment and dedication. It also recognizes the work that he does through AMVETS, and all of our local veterans organizations. We’re all very proud of his getting this award, and of his dedication.”
Veator, 77, joined the U.S. Army in 1958, fresh out of Gloucester High School’s Class of 1957. After training at Fort Dix in New Jersey, Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, he was assigned to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He then served with the 82nd Airborne before being honorably discharged in 1964, just before the escalation of what was to become the Vietnam War.
“We were ready to go,” he said of his unit, “right down to their bringing us right to the airstrip (for deployment to Germany and then elsewhere). But we remained on standby and never went. It was a difficult time.”
After leaving the military, Veator returned to Gloucester and began working for the city, spending more than 35 years with the Department of Public Works, serving as head of its water division before retiring in 2000. He has continued volunteering and serving veterans through the city’s AMVETS post since 1965.
“We’ve always gone into the veterans hospitals and tried to help out,” he said. “I think that’s one of best things we can do as an organization — and it’s getting harder and harder now because it seems we’re always in a constant state of deployment, with more (wounded) soldiers coming home from places like Iraq and Afghanistan all the time.
“A lot of them are missing limbs — it’s a difficult thing to see,” he said. “But we know they need our help, too, and whatever we can do to make their days better, that’s what I want to do. That is what we do.