Photographer Jason Grow photographs Vietnam War Army veteran Sgt. Tom Piraino of Gloucester, Mass., as part of his to photograph Vietnam and Korean War veterans.

Photographer Jason Grow photographs Vietnam War Army veteran Sgt. Tom Piraino of Gloucester, Mass., as part of his to photograph Vietnam and Korean War veterans. (Jason Grow Photography/Facebook)

(Tribune News Service) — The lines in their faces captured in black and white tell the story of their service and sacrifice in a city with a long, proud tradition of military service.

In recent months, professional photographer Jason Grow, a Gloucester, Mass., city councilor, has been taking photos of veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars in a project similar to the one he created for World War II veterans several years ago.

The project is simple. Grow photographs veterans, some holding photographs, memorabilia, service-related mementos, gear or even newspaper clippings while providing a brief description of their life and service.

With the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 fast approaching and local veterans from these wars not getting any younger, Grow started the Cape Ann Vietnam & Korean War Veterans Portrait Project. The World War II project, which involved photos of 62 veterans, had been timed to the 70th anniversary of the end of that conflict.

“I’ll be photographing through the year as people come forward,” he said. So far, he has photographed 27 service members from the Korean and Vietnam eras. The goal is to hold a public exhibition along the lines of one he did for World War II veterans.

“I’d like to photograph as many as I can,” Grow said.

Last Saturday, Grow set up on the second floor of the Capt. Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 on Washington Street so that veterans could come to him for a photo session.

The Legion’s Commander Mark Nestor, and the bar and event space manager, Aaron Stewart, arranged for him to use the space, Grow said.

“When I did the World War II veterans, I did them individually at their house and that was a lot,” he said about having to go to a house, set up and break down all the equipment.

“This is great because we can set up and have everything set and ready to go.”

He has been finding veterans through word of mouth and with the help of Nestor, Ruth Pino, who helped spur the creation of the new Vietnam Memorial on Stacy Boulevard, and Vionette “Vee” Chipperini, the Cape Ann Veterans Services director. Posting the photos to Facebook has also gotten the word out.

Among those Grow photographed Saturday were Avis Murray of Gloucester who served in the Women’s Army Corps; former City Councilor Joseph R. Orlando, who served in the Army in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968; and Beverly High graduate Ralph Fatello of Hampton, N.H., who worked at the Gloucester Daily Times as an artist in the mid-1980s.

The photo session came less than a week before Cape Ann Veterans Services is scheduled to honor National Vietnam War Veterans Day on Friday with a wreath laying at 11 a.m. at the Vietnam Memorial on Stacy Boulevard.

Murray served in the Women’s Army Corps from 1956 to 1965, after graduating from Gloucester High in 1955. She was humbled for being included.

“I think I even sent him a note,” Murray said of her appreciation of what Grow is doing. “I think it’s a huge project he’s taking on and it’s humbling, that’s what I think.”

Murray is known as a tennis legend on Cape Ann. Her story is included in the 400 Stories Project for Gloucester’s 400+ Anniversary.

As a secretary in the Women’s Army Corps she worked in various roles from transportation, to legal to public relations, and was even transferred to Germany for two years. She held a top-secret clearance. She found her love of tennis while serving at Fort Devens, according to her story in the 400 Stories Project.

Orlando, a 1966 graduate of now defunct St. Ann’s High School and city councilor in the mid-1980s, recounted his service in Vietnam for Grow. Orlando was a specialist four in the Army who worked in a support unit for the infantry.

“In my last month over there they were shipping us to Hue because they were getting hit bad over there,” he said.

Orlando was awarded the Bronze Star for his service. He was featured on the front page of the Gloucester Daily Times on June 14, 1969, when he came home on leave.

“I think it’s great. I’m glad he’s doing this,” Orlando said. “We weren’t a very happy group coming out, I mean nobody cared for us at that point.”

Lynn native Fatello, 72, who lives in Hampton, N.H., is an artist, guitar player and avid surfer who grew up in Beverly. He recalled pre-enlisting in the Marine Corps at 17 in 1968 before he graduated high school in 1969. He was told he would be a combat artist, but wound up a rifleman in the infantry, a “0311.”

He served as a grunt in along the DMZ in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 with the 9th Marines.

Fatello brought with him to the photo shoot a skateboard his father sent him in Vietnam. He got the idea he could skateboard on the deck of an amphibious ship known as an LPH, a carrier for helicopters, where the 9th Marines would be stationed from time to time.

“The day I did it was during a typhoon when all the choppers, the helicopters, were chained down,” Fatello said. The waves that day on the South China Sea were like mountains and the wind was howling. He made one pass on the deck with the wheels chattering and he realized: “This is awful.”

He passed by the tower, and the Navy officers saw him. He did a kick turn and he was coming back down when crew grabbed him and pulled him into the ship and called his commanding officer.

“They were going court martial me. The Navy guys were saying that if I had fallen off the ship, it would have cost the government $1.78, that was how much I was worth,” Fatello said, saying they would not have turned the ship around to get him. They confiscated his skateboard.

However, he became a squad leader, and a good one at that, he said.

No one got killed in his squad. and just before he was set to rotate home, his commanding officer pulled Fatello’s skateboard out of his sea bag and gave it to him. Fatello burst into tears. All the guys in the squad signed it. About 20 years ago, his mother called him as she still had the skateboard and she wanted him to have it back.

Back then, the Vietnam War was not popular and she did not tell many people about her service, but over the years she said she and others around her have come to appreciate the service of veterans from this era, Murray said.

“Be proud of what you did,” said Murray, whose name graces the tennis courts on Stacy Boulevard adjacent to the city’s new Vietnam Memorial. Army Capt. David W. Bowman, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1965 and whose name is on this memorial, was her classmate.

“It’s a wonderful project,” Murray said of Grow’s photos to honor those who served in the Vietnam and Korean wars.

(c)2024 the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.)


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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