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A Year After Outbreak Revealed, Remembering COVID-19 Victims At Holyoke Soldiers' Home

The Holyoke Soldiers' Home in March 2020.
Jesse Costa
/
WBUR
The Holyoke Soldiers' Home in March 2020.

A vigil held Tuesday night at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home marked a year since the announcement of the first coronavirus deaths at the state-run veterans facility. At least 76 veterans who tested positive for COVID-19 died during the outbreak.

The event was organized by labor unions representing workers at the home. Speakers, including staff members and clergy, remembered residents who died and expressed continued support for their families.

"Not a day has gone by since COVID first struck that we have forgotten our veterans and their families, as they are, and will forever, be embedded in our minds and our hearts," said Carrie Forrant, a social worker at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home for the last 28 years. "To the nation, they may have been seen as numbers, statistics and headlines, but — to us — they were, and are, our heroes."

Some speakers also expressed hope for a new Soldiers' Home in Holyoke. A $400 million funding bill proposed by Governor Charlie Baker is currently making its way through the legislature. It needs to be approved soon in order for the project to qualify for federal matching funds.

The former superintendent and medical director of the Soldiers' Home both face criminal charges over their handling of the crisis.

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