NEW BEDFORD - During December, the 471st flag to fly atop Old Glory Tower in the North End honors the memory of Vietnam War hero, U.S. Army First Sgt. John Vincent Veara, who was killed in action Aug. 19, 1968 at age 37 of small arms fire. He served his country for 16 years.
Veara, a native of Long Island, was stationed with Co. D. , 2nd Battalion, 3rd training Brigade at Ft. Bliss, TX before his assignment to A Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division. Veara met his wife, Maja, in Germany while serving abroad and they were married in Germany on a Christmas Eve.
Pamela LaBonte, Veara's sister, said "he had been wounded twice before, but he volunteered to stay in because he felt somebody had to be there. He wrote saying to wish him luck because he only had 40 days left there. Then he was going to Germany for two years and then ... retiring."
Veara's death left his widow, Maja, with three children ages 15, 7 and a newborn to raise. She and the kids settled in Acushnet.
Veara received numerous posthumous awards including the Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart.
"First Sgt. Veara distinguished himself by heroic actions on 19 Aug. 1968, while serving as 1st Sgt. with A Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, in the Republic of Vietnam," according to Col. Neil Chapin in a ceremony presenting Veara's wife with his decorations.
"While on a combat operation, A Troop came under an intense enemy attack. During the ensuing battle," he said. Sgt. Veara's track was hit by an RPG round. Immediately, Sgt. Veara began to direct his crew in laying down heavy fire towards enemy positions. Upon seeing that a track commander was wounded, Sgt. Veara, with complete disregard for his own safety, exposed himself to a heavy volume of enemy fire as he administered first aid and evacuated the man. He then continued to direct his men until he was mortally wounded. His valorous actions contributed immeasurably to the success of the mission and the defeat of the enemy force."
Veara received the following medals, many of which were awarded for gallantry in action the day he died: two Silver Stars, 3 Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, Gallantry Cross with palm, Military Merit Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal from the Vietnamese Government, Vietnam Service Badge, National Service Medal, Expert Cannoneer Badge, Sharpshooter Badge (Rifle), and Marksman Badge (Pistol).
Veara's name is inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington on panel 47W, line 005. Many of his uniforms and medals are currently displayed at the Fort Taber Military Museum.
Roy Veara, John's middle son, is an Army veteran like his dad. He said in a Standard-Times story that "it still hurts every time I hear taps. It's still tough to hold back tears." Roy was only seven years old when his father died in 1968.
Veara's widow Maja (Gress), became an active member of the "Gold Star Wives of America" as well as the VFW. They had three sons: Gerold Veara of New Mexico, Roy Veara of New Bedford and John Veara, formerly of Acushnet.
Veara also had three siblings; a sister, Pamela LaBonte of North Dartmouth, two brothers, Richard Veara of New York and the late Robert Veara. He is also survived by two grandchildren: Amanda Veara of New Bedford and Shaun Veara of Fairhaven, as well as his sister-in-law, Liselotte Casey of Acushnet.
The late Joseph Theodore, a WWII veteran and Purple Hear recipient began the practice of flying veterans' flags above the Old Glory Tower 38 years ago. Linda Ferreira, a marketing representative at Ashley Ford in New Bedford, researches the life histories of area veterans and Paul Neary, general manager of the dealership, raises the memorial flags on the veterans' behalf.
If you would like to honor a veteran by flying a flag at Old Glory Tower, contact Ferreira at (508) 996-5611 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.