Efforts under way to remember Leominster soldier


LEOMINSTER - Friends and family of a Leominster soldier killed in Iraq are working to make sure he is never forgotten.

The city council on Monday will consider a petition to name a piece of city-owned land along the Nashua River the Johnny Ro Veterans Memorial Park after Army Pfc. Jonathan Roberge.
The 22-year-old Roberge died in combat in Iraq in February 2009.
Organizers plan to erect a bust or statue of Roberge and install flagpoles, benches and a canoe launch.
Roberge's father, John, tells The Sentinel & Enterprise that they are also trying to acquire a decommissioned army tank for the site as a reminder of his son's duty on a tank crew.
His father says he wants people to remember what his son stood for.


‘Johnny Ro’ park approved by council

Worcester Telegram & Gazzette

LEOMINSTER - Just a few days past the two-year anniversary of Army Pfc. Jonathan Roberge’s death in Iraq, the City Council — in an emotion-filled vote — unanimously approved a park in his honor last night.

As tearful family members looked on, Thomas K. “Tucker” Hazzard, a Vietnam War veteran who helped coordinate the effort, said the one-acre city-owned parcel at Nashua and Mechanic streets would eventually hold a decommissioned tank. A parking lot, trail, and canoe launch are already in place, he said, noting that everything would be paid for with donations. A City Council vote was required, Mr. Hazzard explained, to approve a cement pad for the tank and to maintain it. Pfc. Roberge served in an Army tank division.

Councilor James Lanciani Jr., choking up as he spoke, said that, as a veteran, he was proud and honored to vote for the “Johnny Ro Veterans Memorial Park.”

“It’s something very near and dear to me,” he said. “For a mother and father, to lose a son — a son — a son, who … while I never met the young man, just knowing his parents tells me what a great kid he was.”

Councilor Claire M. Freda recalled sitting with Pfc. Roberge’s grandfather the night they learned of his death, when the older man, who was at the meeting last night, wondered if a City Hall memorial service would attract many mourners. As it turned out, hundreds came and a line formed around the block for hours.

“We knew how much this touched all of us,” Mrs. Freda said, also tearing up. “It’s just as strong in everyone’s heart now as it was then.”

Council President John M. Dombrowski said he was amazed at how the community came together during the tragedy.

“It’s important to have monuments like these so that people will remember,” he said.
— Karen Nugent


Crew to break ground on Leominster park today

Sentinel & Enterprise

LEOMINSTER -- A committee building the Johnny Ro Veterans Memorial Park on Mechanic Street will break ground on construction today.
The park was named in honor of Pfc. Jonathan Roberge, a Leominster native killed in action in Iraq in February 2009. He was 22.
David Nault, one of the organizers, said grounds work must be complete before a decommissioned tank, an Abrams model, can be installed. The tank was secured as a memorial in honor of Roberge's work as a tanker in the Army.
When complete, the park will also feature benches, flagpoles, and a canoe launch.
Mayor Dean Mazzarella will kick off the groundbreaking at 9:30 a.m., according to Nault.
Johnny Ro Veterans Memorial Park is located at the bottom of Johnny Appleseed Lane, where Roberge grew up.