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Volunteers replace dangerous walkway for disabled Massachusetts veteran

By MARC LAROCQUE | The Enterprise | Published: July 25, 2019

BROCKTON, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — A couple of young landscapers are going the extra step for a disabled Vietnam veteran.

Andrew Merriam, 20, and Derek Shaughnessy, 21, laid down pavers and whacked them into place with a rubber mallet, all to replace a dangerous, old, busted-up slate and concrete walkway in front of the home of disabled Vietnam War veteran John Kennedy.

Merriam and  Shaughnessy recently started a landscaping business called Twins Landscaping, but on Wednesday they did the work pro bono, with supplies bought by the Merriam family, after hearing about how Kennedy slipped and fell on the rocky path leading to his front door.

"It was all deteriorated," said Merriam, who serves in the Army National Guard. "My mom said she's caught him falling a couple times on it. Seeing him fall really upset my mom. Knowing that we do walkways, she asked us to do this."

Kennedy, 72, has been living at his house in Brockton for 12 years. Earlier in life, Kennedy was a Marine serving in Vietnam, where he was injured during the Tet Offensive. First he was shot in the head, Kennedy said, although his helmet took the brunt of the blow. Despite the head injury, Kennedy said he was treated and continued serving for a total of 13 months in Vietnam, until he stepped on a booby trap, leading to a medical discharge after 3 1/2 years of service in the Marines.

"I'd do it again in a heartbeat though," said Kennedy, who shares a name with the American president, noting that he also got shot in the head.

Merriam and Shaughnessy also surprised Kennedy with a specialized brick as part of the one-day construction project, imprinted with a Marine logo on it.

"I can't say enough about them," said a grateful Kennedy, looking on from his front door, with a red Marine Corps flag hanging in the window. "That's what neighbors do."

Michael Merriam, Andrew Merriam's father, chipped in to buy the supplies needed to make the walkway installation possible.

"I always told my son, always be a giver, not a taker," Merriam said.

Bella Merriam, his mother, credited her son and Shaughnessy for doing a good deed.

"They are wonderful kids," she said. "He's our neighbor and we watch out for our neighbors. It was a treacherous walkway for him, where he's disabled. I've seen him fall a few times over the years. The new walkway makes it so it won't be slippery. I'm just very proud of them."

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©2019 The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass.
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