Late Erving vet to be honored at Vietnam Veterans Memorial
|Published: 05-29-2023 9:14 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Since the end of the Vietnam War, about 300,000 American military veterans have died from exposure to Agent Orange. One of those fallen patriots was lifelong Erving resident Bruce L. Bezio, who died of lung cancer in September 2021, six days before his 74th birthday and more than a half-century after he fought overseas for his country.
Bezio will be one of 567 late service members, including 15 from Massachusetts, inducted next month into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s In Memory program, which honors and remembers veterans who made it home but later died as a direct result of their service. The memorial fund plans to host the 2023 In Memory ceremony on the East Knoll of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on June 17, when each 2023 honoree’s name will be read aloud.
“I was very happy and honored to hear that. He well deserves it,” said his widow, Donna Bezio, who plans to travel to the nation’s capital with her son, Robert, and his wife, Laura, to read her late husband’s name at the ceremony. “He didn’t like to be the center of attention. He was very laid-back and pretty quiet and everything. He probably wouldn’t appreciate it, but I certainly do.”
The plaque honoring veterans who died after coming home was dedicated as part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site in 2004. Agent Orange is an herbicide the U.S. military used during the Vietnam War to defoliate tree cover that could conceal the enemy. But it has since been learned the chemical is extremely dangerous and can cause various ailments, ranging from cancer to ischemic heart disease to Parkinson’s disease.
Bruce Bezio was in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam from January 1969 to August 1970, during which time he earned awards that included the National Defense Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, Bronze Star Cluster and a Vietnam Service Medal.
Donna Bezio said her husband did not talk much of his service but endured some unpleasant experiences once he got home from Vietnam. She explained he returned home in full uniform on a late-night bus to Greenfield and heard people driving by call him a “baby killer.”
“That bothered him for years,” she recounted.
Robert Bezio said his family learned in October or November about the In Memory program through his wife’s cousin, who works for a veterans agency. He said applications were due by March and families of deceased veterans had to document their loved one’s years of service and provide evidence that they died from complications of an injury or illness resulting from service in Vietnam.
“He had multiple forms of lung cancer but (doctors) said the second time he got it was definitely from Agent Orange,” Robert said, adding this father repeatedly went into remission only for the disease to come back. “He battled it for 19½ years before he lost his battle.”
Jim Knotts, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s president and CEO, said returning home was only the beginning of a new fight for many Vietnam War veterans.
“Many never fully recovered, either physically or emotionally, from their experiences,” he said in a statement. “As these veterans pass, it is our duty and solemn promise to welcome them home to the place that our nation has set aside to remember our Vietnam veterans.”
Reach Domenic Poli at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4120.