As the nation paused today to honor President John F. Kennedy local communities here in Western Mass remembered what he brought to the region and how he inspired an entire generation.
From the eternal flame that burns 365 days a year in Springfield's Forest Park, to a new tradition at the JFK memorial in Holyoke, Western Mass residents continue to remember.
"We've never had a man like this. People of all denominations, political organizations love this man," said Bill Marot who organized Springfield's ceremony.
People here in Western Mass love him too. JFK walked the streets of Holyoke as a United States Senator in 1958. He would come back on the eve of the presidential election to speak in Springfield's Court Square.
"His inaugural address in 1960 has resonated with me my entire life," said John Paradis,who works at the Holyoke Soldiers Home.
The words, "And so my fellow Americans ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country," that JFK spoke in 1960 inspired millions and touched the hearts of those right here. Like that of John Paradis, who went on to join the armed services because of those words.
"I've served my nation both in the air force and now in government service and I'm passionate about that. I believe every citizen has an obligation to serve in whatever capacity they can; community, government, military," Paradis said.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart Western Mass Chapter 875 honored Kennedy Friday night not only for leading the country as president, but he's the first president to receive a purple heart for wounds he sustained in combat in WWII.
"The reason we're here today is his inspiration. He inspired people then, he inspired his PT boat crew 20 years before he died, and he inspires us today," said Brian Willette of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Western Mass Chapter.
For those like Paradis, who was only two months old on Nov. 22, 1963, they didn't need to see him or know him, but simply chose to follow his life of service.
"I think that's truly the legacy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy," Paradis said.
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