North Adams Armory dedicated to Michael DeMarsico II
NORTH ADAMS — Melanie Rancourt remembered the time when, as a high school student, Michael DeMarsico II had his caricature drawn.
He asked that it be as a soldier.
"I can still see that drawing in my head. He was determined to serve his country, and that was his future," said Rancourt, a teacher of DeMarsico's at Drury High School.
The North Adams Armory site was dedicated to Army Spc. DeMarsico, who was killed in action in Afghanistan at age 20 in 2012, in a ceremony outside the historic building Saturday.
Guest speakers at the event, which drew a sizable crowd despite unseasonably cold and windy weather, included Pastor Dave Anderson, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Mayor Richard Alcombright, U.S. Rep.-elect John Barrett III, and state Sen. Adam Hinds.
DeMarsico's family, including mother Lisa DeMarsico and father Michael DeMarsico, attended but chose to have Rancourt speak on their behalf.
"I hope that you know that this city is proud of everything you've done, because you know I am," Rancourt said, addressing DeMarsico, who she said was "looking down on this dedication today."
The dedication of the site coincided with Veterans Day and followed the city's annual ceremonies at the American Legion on Saturday morning.
The armory will retain its name, but the site is now dedicated to DeMarsico. A stone was unveiled Saturday at Ashland and Porter streets that displays a plaque honoring the fallen soldier — a "permanent reminder" of his service.
"A born leader, with the eyes of an eagle and the heart of a lion, he understood the risks involved, but took the lead role of point man walking ahead of his brothers in arms to search for improvised explosive devices," a part of the plaque explains. "His motivation was to ensure they would safely return home to their families."
Alcombright spearheaded the dedication, in collaboration with the DeMarsico family, because of the building's ties with military history and the nearing completion of its yearslong renovation, which is expected to be wrapped up next year.
After his death, DeMarsico was awarded the Bronze Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal and a plethora of other commendations and awards.
DeMarsico endured challenges that "I could not possibly accomplish," said Anderson, who spoke on DeMarsico's behalf at his funeral and described him as a hero.
"Monuments are erected to help us forever remember the heroes among us, who served and sacrificed with honor. It is for that reason we gather here today," Anderson said before reading a prayer.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was not present but sent the family a U.S. flag that was flown over the Capitol.
"We owe everyone in the armed services a true debt of gratitude," Warren wrote in a letter.
Neal noted that Afghanistan is the longest-standing conflict in the history of the United States.
"For many of us, our lives will move on; for members of the DeMarsico family, every time they walk by or drive by, it's going to instill another very pleasant memory from the commitment that was made," Neal said.
Hinds said Iraq and Afghanistan were "this generation's war, my generation's war."
"It's our generation's time to step up and serve, and that's what Michael did for every single one of you," Hinds said. "It's also this generation's time to make sure that we honor that."
Barrett connected the ceremony to Peter W. Foote, a city native who was killed in the Vietnam War.
"Life goes on, but we can't forget those who have served us so well," Barrett said.