Honored to serve

Ever since the age of 18, Bruce Siegel has served his country.

The Lynnfield resident served in the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1972, where he achieved the rank of Third Class Petty Officer as a fire control technician. Siegel worked in the Gunnery Department and was responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Navy’s radar-driven target-tracking system.

As part of the Sixth Fleet, Siegel was deployed to both the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, making stops in Spain, Greece, Italy, France, and Gibraltar, as well as Puerto Rico, Panama, Columbia, Jamaica, and the Virgin Islands. He also participated in training exercises at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

After he was discharged, Siegel attended the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where he earned an accounting degree in 1976. After working 21 years as a senior auditor for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he retired in 2015.

Around that same time he took over as the veterans service officer for Lynnfield. It was a special day for him as he was appointed on Dec. 7 — the anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

“On that special day of remembrance, I was truly honored,” Siegel said.

As a veterans service officer, Siegel is responsible for the management and administration of federal, state, and local benefits to assist veterans, widows, and dependents. Also, he answers inquiries, and provides assistance relative to many veterans’ issues, including war bonuses, education, and training, employment, tax abatements, veterans affairs medical care, and burial benefits. Siegel is also responsible for the coordination of the local Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.

Siegel has been able to take part in some special projects in the town. He has been able to honor soldiers with Gold Star street signs and plaques around Lynnfield. There are four locations throughout town that are named after Lynnfield residents who were killed in action. The town also recently became a Purple Heart community.

For Siegel, the best part of the job is simply being able to help veterans.

“It’s interesting to see how people react when you tell them you help veterans. They are very receptive, very responsive and they are just so enthusiastic when you tell them you work with veterans,” he said.

He also mentioned a particular situation from the beginning of his time as a veterans service officer when a young veteran came into Siegel’s office and said that he wanted to take his own life. Siegel said that the young man was lacking confidence and was worried about failing in school or his profession.

“I said ‘wait a second. You have your whole life ahead of you. I’m sure you have a family. I’m sure you have friends,'” Siegel said.

Several months later, that same young man reached out to Siegel and said if it wasn’t for that conversation, he might have ended his life. The young veteran was able to go to school and find a job.

“Those are the types of things that I appreciate and I cherish when people tell me I helped them,” he said.

Siegel currently is working on bringing a new war memorial to town. Prior to his time in the position, a previous veterans service officer wanted to update the memorial that is currently in town to ensure that all the names of servicemen and women from Lynnfield are on that memorial.

“The memorial that exists today doesn’t go past the Vietnam War,” he said. “There might be a few names after the Vietnam War, but many names that should be on there are not.”

Siegel is a part of Lynnfield’s War Memorial Committee, which, along with the Select Board, has approved a design that is currently being formally designed by an architect. The new memorial will look to honor veterans from the Revolutionary War all the way up to today. According to Select Board member Joseph Connell, the committee is also looking to include a history of each war, as well as a map of where individual battles took place.

The new war memorial will be located across from the town common in a brand new location, as the town bought a piece of land nearby the current location of the memorial.

The town received a $50,000 state grant for the project, which is estimated to cost upwards of $300,000.