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4 brothers made it home from war, etched in stone

By CYRUS MOULTON | Telegram & Gazette | Published: November 18, 2017

WORCESTER, Mass. (Tribune News Service) -- Thankfully, none of "the Quinn boys" was killed in action. That made them ineligible for a veterans square in the city, but that didn't mean they didn't deserve recognition as heroes for serving their country.

So Leo R. Quinn, 87, decided to take matters into his own hands.

"If you want to do something yourself, just do it," said Quinn, who erected a monument in his front yard on Glen Ellen Road to the Quinn boys -- himself and his three brothers -- who served in the armed forces. "People go out of their way to have heroes like football players and movie stars. I've got three heroes as brothers."

The six kids in the Quinn family grew up on Northridge Street in Worcester, and all four of the Quinn boys volunteered for the Armed Forces.

Three of the brothers served during World War II.

Eldest brother John D. Quinn joined the Navy in 1942 and saw combat as a landing craft infantry operator on the beaches of Normandy.

"All he could see was bodies on the beach," Quinn said, recalling his brother's memories of the invasion. John D. Quinn also participated in the invasions of Sicily, and southern France, and multiple invasions in the South Pacific.

John D. Quinn also survived the Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston while he was on furlough, Quinn said.

Richard E. Quinn enlisted in the Army Air Force early in 1943, and was a pilot stationed on Guam. He flew weather reconnaissance missions over Japan.

Donald J. Quinn joined the Navy in August 1944, the day after his 18th birthday, Quinn recalled. He served aboard a water tender supplying water to ships in the South Pacific.

He used to recall an attack by a kamikaze plane that came near the ship. "He said, 'I had never been so scared in my life,' " Quinn said.

Quinn himself served from 1951 to 1954 as a paratrooper with the 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. He said he did not see combat, but saw plenty of danger, serving as an observer during atomic bomb tests.

John D. became a salesman, moving from Worcester to New Jersey to Florida. Richard E. returned to graduate from Holy Cross, and then worked for General Tire outside of Boston, traveling all over New England. Donald J. returned to Baltimore, where he worked for the Social Security Administration. Quinn returned to Worcester, where he worked for New England Telephone, which became Nynex, retiring in 1990.

Last spring, Quinn said, he decided he wanted to honor his brothers. He called the city's veterans office about getting a veterans square named in their honor. But the squares are usually dedicated to those killed in action, according to the city application process.

"Thank God my three brothers were not killed in combat," Quinn said.

So he decided to put a monument in his front yard.

Nov. 10, he, his son and daughter-in-law, and daughter and son-in-law erected a four-foot gray granite monument in a garden. A bronze plaque says simply: "When Their Country Called / The Quinn Boys Answered," and then lists the men's names.

Quinn said it's OK that the monument -- at the second-to-last house on the dead-end street by the airport -- may not be seen by many. He knows it's there, and he's sending pictures to his relatives. John D. and Donald J. Quinn are deceased, while Richard E. is in poor health.

"Their kids would be happy to know their fathers are on a stone," Quinn said.

Quinn's son, Joe Quinn, said he was proud.

"I'm proud of my dad and my uncles for their service to the country," Joe Quinn said simply. "It's nice."

And Mr. Quinn said that the monument shows that all veterans deserve to be recognized.

"Everyone has a hero that's a football player or an actor," Quinn said. "The real heroes are the ones who served in World War II or any war ... Afghanistan, especially Vietnam, they had people spit on them when they returned. Anyone who gives any time period of their life to serve their country, they ought to be commended."

(c) 2017 Telegram & Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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