HOLYOKE (CBS) – “There are not words big enough. There is not a hug strong enough,” said Laurie Mandeville-Beaudette, reading a letter aloud in front of the Soldiers Home of Holyoke. “There is not a smile wide enough. All I can offer is thank you.” It’s a letter she hand-delivered to 130 veterans.
Her Navy veteran father is one of 76 veterans who died of COVID-19 in April, in the midst of accusations that mismanagement at the state-run facility caused COVID-19 deaths that could have been prevented.
“We are in the second surge now. I’m just hoping and praying they all stay safe,” said Mandeville-Beaudette.
She made a second stop at the Holyoke Medical Center, where veterans are transferred when they’re sick. “This is where my dad died. This is going to be hard,” she said on the way in. She left a stack of Veterans Day cards at the front desk to be handed out to patients.
She’s part of a group called the Holyoke Soldiers Home Coalition, which created a Veterans Day slideshow featuring photos and information about each resident lost to the pandemic.
State officials streamed a virtual ceremony for veterans to watch inside the home, which is in lockdown since a staff member tested positive.
“The first holiday without my dad. It’s really hard. I just want to be with him and thank him for his service and spend time with him,” said Mandeville-Beaudette. “They’re not forgotten.”