The remembrance is held annually to honor the memory of President John F. Kennedy on the date of his assassination: November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. President John F. Kennedy was a Massachusetts native, U.S. Representative and Senator for Massachusetts, and America’s 35th President. The single other eternal flame dedicated to “JFK” burns by his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.
In addition to honoring the late President Kennedy, Mayor Sarno invited Springfield’s own Vietnam disabled Veteran and former Springfield Veteran of the Year Eugene Brice to the ceremony to be acknowledged and to rally support and stand by him after a recent and disgusting racial and anti-disability encounter in the Big Y parking lot in East Longmeadow, as reported on Sunday by Ron Chimelis of the Republican News.
In short, Mr. Brice was verbally assaulted for his physical disability/handicap and called a racial slur over twenty times by a woman who had parked next to his handicap van in a handicap parking spot while he was trying to shop at the Big Y in East Longmeadow. When he asked if she could move her vehicle so he could deploy his ramp to exit the van in his scooter, she belittled him and threated to physically harm him and called him the ‘N’ word. The full story and encounter can be read by the article published by Ron Chimelis of the Republic – Click HERE.
Mayor Sarno welcomed Mr. Brice at the City of Springfield’s JFK Memorial event today in support of Mr. Brice and to stand against the hateful, harmful and atrocious occurrence, something in which the late President John F. Kennedy stood against and helped to push and support through Civil Rights legislation.
Mayor Sarno states, “What happened to my friend and Vietnam disabled Veteran Eugene Brice is deplorable and disgusting – all over a handicap parking space. What is wrong with people! I will always and proudly stand by and support not only Mr. Eugene Brice but all of our Veterans and those with a disability. Eugene is a good man and a gentleman who has done so much good for our community and for others, he is always willing to help anyone out. He and our other Veterans and disabled Veterans should never be treated this way. On top of this, you throw in the degrading racial language of the ‘N’ word, this is totally unacceptable and that woman should be ashamed of herself for verbally attacking a proud disabled Veteran in a scooter as he was trying to get out of his vehicle. That type of behavior and ignorance is just plain wrong. No human being should endure this type of treatment and disrespect, especially our beloved Veterans. Even though very shaken by this terrible incident, Mr. Brice, a man with a heart of gold, said during our JFK Ceremony that he doesn’t wish her any ill-will but instead empathy and prayers for her. Mr. Eugene Brice, our Springfield community prays for you!”
“Along with Congressman Neal and everyone who attended today’s JFK Memorial ceremony, we all proudly stand with Eugene Brice. The outpouring of support is truly heartwarming since this story broke. Everyone from Bishop William Byrne, Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, Veterans Services Director Tom Belton and local residents who do not even know Eugene Brice have expressed their support and love. After hearing about this unfortunate incident I reached out to Eugene and shared my thoughts and support with him too. President Kennedy defined the civil rights crisis as moral, as well as constitutional and legal. It is only fitting that we stand in support of our proud disabled Vietnam Veteran Eugene Brice against this kind of treatment as we acknowledge and honor coming together with mutual respect and compassion no matter one’s creed, color or background at the JFK Memorial.”