In the News

Mayor Sarno's Letter to the Editor - "Mayor Sarno and Springfield Community Shows Their Unyielding Support for Vietnam Veteran Eugene Brice"

When I first read the story by Ron Chimelis of the Republican News on early Sunday morning about how Springfield’s own Vietnam Veteran and Former Springfield Veteran of the Year Eugene ‘Genie’ Brice was treated in the parking lot of Big Y in East Longmeadow I was disgusted, angry and concerned for my friend. The disgusting racial and anti-disability encounter he experienced from a spiteful and rude woman who parked to close to his handicap van in a handicap parking space was not only disrespectful but insensitive and just plain wrong and immoral.

What happened to my friend was deplorable and disgusting – all over a handicap parking space.  What is wrong with some 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 and hateful racial language of the ‘N’ word directed at Mr. Brice from this woman – 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 one should have to endure this type of treatment and disrespect, especially our beloved Veterans. 

Upon hearing of this incident, I knew what I had to do to respond, not just as a Mayor but more importantly as his friend.  As Congressman Richard Neal and I were set to gather at our majestic Forest Park on Monday, November 22nd for the annual JFK Memorial ceremony to honor the memory of the late beloved President John F. Kennedy, a president who stood against hate and racism and helped to push and support Civil Rights legislation, I reached out to ‘Genie’ again, and invited him to attend and be a part of the ceremony.  I wanted him to be there so we could collectively show our support and to echo the memory of JFK’s legacy that our Springfield community, young and old and no matter what creed, color or background, stands with him in the face of this hateful, harmful and atrocious occurrence. 

Eugene was really hurting but encouraged by the outpouring of support he received.  Everyone who attended the JFK Memorial ceremony proudly stood with and expressed their support and love for our proud Veteran Eugene Brice.  The tremendous outpouring of support from our Springfield community was truly heartwarming since this story broke.  Everyone from Congressman Neal, Bishop William Byrne, Bishop James Gill, Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, Veterans Services Director Tom Belton, Deputy Veterans Services Director Joe DeCaro, our Springfield Veterans Activities Committee, longtime ‘Irish Hours’ radio host James Sullivan, other elected officials and community leaders, and local residents who did not even know Eugene Brice all expressed their support, love and unity.

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!

President Kennedy defined the civil rights crisis as moral, as well as constitutional and legal.  It is only fitting that we came together during our 58th Annual JFK Memorial event in support of our proud disabled Vietnam Veteran Eugene Brice against this kind of unjust and immoral treatment.  God Bless Eugene Brice and God Bless the City of Springfield. 

Respectfully,

Domenic J. Sarno

Mayor

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Page last updated:  Thursday, September 2, 2021 10:30 am