Veteran Recalls Sending off Fallen Chelsea Soldier During Vietnam

Some of the most poignant and heart-wrenching remembrances on a time like Memorial Day often happen spontaneously, and that’s just what occurred on Monday, May 31, during Chelsea’s return to in-person events with the annual Memorial Day Exercises.

Though not on the agenda or the program, Peter Chism, of Framingham, showed up to the exercises to tell the story of his yearly sojourn to Chelsea each Memorial Day in order pay tribute to Chelsea’s Eddie Rosser – who died at the age of 18 in Vietnam.

Rosser’s name adorns the war memorial dedicated to those who died in Vietnam, a memorial that sits in front of City Hall. Chism said he had known Rossi well prior to him leaving for Vietnam, but had never found out what happened to the young man until he was visiting Chelsea City Hall on state business in 1992. As he walked in, he looked at the Vietnam memorial out of curiosity and then – boom – Rossi’s name stared back at him.

“I watched the rolls of those that died in Vietnam, but never caught his name coming back as dead,” said Chism. “When I came here in 1992 and saw his name on the stone, it hit me deeply. Since then, every year I come back on Memorial Day early in the morning to look at his name on that stone and spend some time with it. It’s very important to me.”

He explained he was drafted in 1966 and was shipped to Germany to serve. About two or three months into his time, Rosser – a young soldier from Chelsea – showed up at the base and they quickly became friends.

“We struck up a friendship,” said Chism. “It turned out he was drafted a few days after me because we had similar serial numbers. After a few months, he came to me and said he wanted to go to fight in Vietnam. I asked him if he was sure, and he said he was.”

Chism recalled typing out the 15 copies with the old carbon paper that would make the transfer official, and he said he still remembers punching the holes in all of those copies. Then, later, he remembers giving Rosser his orders to report to Vietnam.

“A couple weeks later he came by to say good-bye,” said Chism. “Then he left for Vietnam. It was only two or three months later that he was killed. When he died, he was only 18 years old.”

Chism shared he has long been curious about what happened to Rossi, and paid special attention to the names of those who died. However, he never knew what happened to Rossi until he was walking into Chelsea City Hall that day in 1992.

“I come back every year at 6 or 6:30 a.m. on Memorial Day,” he said. “It hurts deeply and it’s very important to me.”

2022 Challenge: Bring a Friend

Veterans Agent Francisco Toro scheduled a wonderful keynote speaker in Ret. U.S. Army Col. Bob Notch, who is now the director of veteran services at the Brighton Marine Community. Notch and Brighton Marine were instrumental only one year ago in helping the Soldiers’ Home get needed supplies and technology during the height of the pandemic.

Notch challenged everyone first of all to read the Constitution and all of its Amendments, as without knowing what it says, we cannot know what our rights are and what those who died in war were fighting for.

Beyond that, he said Memorial Day is known for the beginning of summer, and this year as the lifting of COVID restrictions as well, but it’s also a time to remember those that could not be there.

“We should enjoy the beginning of the summer, especially this year with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, but within that I ask we do find time to also remember and honor,” he said. “If they were here, I think they would join us.”

He said the decoration of cemeteries and the flags in the public squares are very touching and beautiful, but he reminded everyone that they represent someone who put their lives ahead of ours so we could enjoy our lives in freedom.

Finally, he ended with another challenge, and that was to bring someone next year to the exercises.

“Lastly, invite someone to come and remember with you next year,” he said. “Time is not limitless. The most valuable thing we have and we decide how to use is time. Everyone here today has chosen to use this time to come here, and next year ask one person to come with you and give of their time to remember this day.”

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