HANSON — During an often-tearful ceremony Tuesday, June 4, the Board of Selectmen joined with the town’s state and federal legislators to bestow overdue honor to a Vietnam veteran.
“Just the idea that our service members weren’t respected during the Vietnam War is so foreign to me,” said Christopher Matthews, a legislative aide to U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass. “I think it’s likely known now, with a sense of shame, that 50 years ago when our veterans returned from Vietnam, they did not receive the respect and honor that they receive today. … It’s an honor today to say on behalf of Rep. Keating, ‘Welcome home, Cpl. Mattson. Thank you for your service and congratulations on this award.’”
Matthews’ father, who served in Korea during Vietnam experienced hostility to his uniform at the time when returning home.
Marine Corps veteran Everett Mattson of Hanson wiped tears from his eyes as state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, spoke to “recognize and congratulate him for his tremendous patience awaiting receipt of his Combat Action Ribbon for service in Vietnam.”
As corporal in the 2nd Marine Div., Mattson served in action in Vietnam in 1966, seeing heavy combat during his service, but did not receive the citation, for which service under enemy fire is required. It was not until he launched a letter-writing campaign in 2004 for an eligibility review that he finally received the ribbon in 2018 — taped onto a letter, which “neither thanked Mr. Mattson for his service nor apologized for the time it took to send him his Combat Action Ribbon,” Cutler said. “Today, we’re here to rectify that, as a community, as a commonwealth, as a nation, to come in a small way to thank you very publicly.”
Selectmen opened their meeting with the ceremony correcting that oversight, with Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett asking Mattson to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
Selectman Wes Blauss presented an official citation to Mattson from the town of Hanson, his voice breaking as he read: “The town of Hanson wishes to recognize you and express the community’s deepest appreciation for your service to your family, neighbors and countrymen.”
Cutler, state Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton, and Keating — through his aide Matthews — presented official citations in honor of Mattson. Keating, who was preparing for departure to France for 75th anniversary observations of the D-Day invasion on Thursday, June 6 was unable to attend.
“Our nation should be judged on how we treat our veterans who put their lives on the line to protect us, which means no veteran should have to wait for housing, health care [or] benefits they deserve,” Matthews said. “Certainly, no veteran should have to wait 50 years for an award that they certainly deserve.”
Brady thanked Mattson’s fellow veterans for attending the ceremony in support of him. Matthews and Hanson Veterans Agent Timothy White pledged to assist him with any services he might require in the future.
“It’s a heck of a long time, but I’m happy [the ribbon] finally came through for you, sir, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the town of Hanson, I thank you for your service,” White said.