New park honoring veterans, service dogs breaks ground in Chicopee

New park honoring veterans, service dogs breaks ground in Chicopee
Published: Feb. 11, 2023 at 12:57 PM EST
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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - After a decade of efforts by western Mass. veterans, local leaders welcomed vets to the groundbreaking of the Western Massachusetts Post 9/11 and Service Dog Memorial Park.

Local veterans and service dogs in Chicopee were honored Saturday with a new memorial park located on Westover Road.

Chicopee Mayor John Vieau told Western Mass News that the memorial bestowed upon this park is a first of its kind for Chicopee.

“Previously, Chicopee has dedicated memorial parks to individuals, conflicts, recognizing the ultimate sacrifices of those who served in the military forces,” he said. “Today, we have the first park established to recognize the service of all veterans, both deceased and living.”

The planning and design phase included community, professional, and veteran input to provide a recreational area that celebrates the contributions made by Massachusetts veterans and service dogs.

Chief Master Sergeant Ryan Hellyar told Western Mass News that the location of the new memorial already has military history behind it.

“I think the location of the memorial is quite fitting,” CMSgt Hellyar said. “This used to be an area that was owned by Westover Air Reserve Base that was just a short distance down the street. It allows us to have a relationship with our community partners and the town of Chicopee. It allows us to do what we do, which is provide air mobility on a global scale.”

Chicopee Director of Veterans Services Stephanie Shaw told Western Mass News that the collaborative effort between veterans, city and state leaders, and the community showed just how much the city supports its veterans.

“We’ve never done something quite so large, working with the other departments ,” she said. “All of the other monuments in dedicated spaces in the city have been grassroots fundraiser efforts from the volunteer committees in town and the veterans, so this is unique with a collaboration between residents, veterans, committees, and city departments.”

The park is expected to be under construction until late 2023.