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Moving memorial for Gold Star families

Cynthia DesLauriers had heard about the Gold Star Memorial Coach, part of a commuter train that started running this year honoring Massachusetts servicemen and women who died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But until Saturday, the Eastham woman had never seen it in person. DesLauriers, whose son, Army Sgt. Mark R. Vecchione was killed in July 2006 in Iraq, came to Hyannis to see and ride on the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad train.

When she saw her son's name emblazoned on the side, she took a photograph with her digital camera.

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"We don't want our children forgotten," she said.

Unveiled earlier this year, the memorial coach has a shrink-wrap cover with gold stars and the names of every Massachusetts Marine, soldier, sailor and airman who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stars are emblazoned over a red, white and blue background.

"In Honor of Our Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, We Thank You" is painted on the side on the train.

MBCR operates the commuter rail network under contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. It has been running the commuter rail service in Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island this year.

When planning the event, the Korean War Veterans of Cape Cod wanted to rent a Cape Cod Central Railroad train to shuttle people to their first ever lobster bash in Buzzards Bay. But the group instead came away with a free ride in the six-car train.

Ryan Coholan, general manager for Cape Cod Central Railroad, said the railroad reached out to the state commuter train service, which gladly offered the train for the afternoon trek.

Cape Cod Central Railroad provided crew, fuel and the track use free of charge.

"It's pretty cool" to see the train make its way to the Cape, he said.

Saturday's event was open to all veterans, members of the military and their families. It included a lobster and sirloin steak meal for those who bought tickets and hot dogs and other food for those who joined the party.

"The train is beautiful," said organizer Jake O'Rourke, with the Korean War Veterans of Cape Cod.

The event was put together to give veterans from different eras and branches a chance to socialize. Organizers estimated nearly 200 people attended.

The train made stops in West Barnstable and Sandwich before stopping in Buzzards Bay.

Ret. Marine Lt. Col. William Stokes, an Orleans resident, joined the ride.

Stokes, who served from 1952 to 1975, said the special train taking veterans to the event added to the festivities.

"I think it's outstanding," he said.

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