White signs in the shape of dog tags line the walls of a room at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, each one with the name of a veteran written on it by a family member or friend. They are part of the “Everyone Knows a Veteran” project, a collaboration between the Watertown Veterans Services Office and the Arts Center.
On Friday, as part of the Veterans Day observances, Watertown Veterans Services Agent Patrick George held a ceremony at the Mosesian Center, where he spoke about the new project, and read Gov. Charlie Baker’s Veterans Day proclamation.
Many of the dog tags just have a name, but some have information about when the veterans served and their experiences. More than a dozen came from members of the Watertown Fire Department, including several from former Fire Chief Bob Quinn. George also added half a dozen that he brought over from the Watertown Senior Center. The dog tags will be on display at the Mosesian Center, 321 Arsenal St. in Watertown, through Nov. 16, and people can still add the names to the wall.
One story he heard was of a family whose grandfather had been a veteran, and they found out only after he passed away that he was a prisoner of war when they discovered his journal.
George wanted to find a way to get word out to people who are family or friends of veterans in hopes of being able to link the vets and their survivors with services. In his effort to reach more veterans, he often found that the family members are the one who first hear of benefits available to veterans.
“I wanted to take the onus off veterans, put it on everyone,” George said. “Everyone knows a veteran. Really what that means is to support veterans in your life. Share the information and share the things that you know about veterans services that are available.”
The final product was quite different from George’s original idea.
“It started with the idea of doing lawn signs but with November and the elections I didn’t want to confuse anyone,” George said.
He also thought of having something where people would fill in the sign saying “My ____ is a Veteran,” where people could put, father, mother, sister, brother, or whatever is appropriate.
He met with Watertown’s Arts & Culture Planner Liz Helfer to brainstorm the idea, and she liked the words he had put together as a call to action for the project, which started “Everyone knows a veteran.” That became the name of the project.
At the same time, Darren Farrington, executive director of the Mosesian Center, was looking for a way to work with local veterans.
“This is the busiest month since we reopened (after the Pandemic). I knew we would have so much going on that we were going to have to work on Veterans Day … I wanted to honor that we are working in a former military build,” Farrington said.
He contacted the City’s Arts and Culture Planner, Liz Helfer,
“She introduced me to Patrick George and this is his wonderful idea,” Farrington said.
Find out more about veterans benefits and services at the Watertown Veterans Services Office website https://watertown-ma.gov/343/Veterans-Services, on its Facebook page, call 617-972-6416, or email Pgeorge@watertown-ma.gov