PEABODY, MA — A name forgotten on the Peabody World War II monument for 75 years — but never forgotten among those with whom the soldier served and among members of the Peabody Portuguese-American War Veterans Post 1 — is now where it rightfully belongs.
Private Joseph P. Sousa was 22 years old when he was killed as the result of injuries he sustained in a car accident while stationed in at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts during the war in 1942. Yet, when the city's World War II memorial was erected in 1945 with the names of Peabody soldiers who died during the war engraved upon it, Sousa's name was omitted.
For three-quarters of a century, those associated with the Portuguese-American post attempted to get the oversight corrected, but perhaps because Sousa was born in Salem, and enlisted in Danvers, it never was even though he resided on Gardner Street in Peabody.
Finally, Robert Sousa and Joe Silva decided it was time to do something about it before Joseph Sousa's sacrifice for his country was lost forever.
"Last winter Joe and I were sitting in the hallway at the post looking at the pictures of the young Portuguese-Americans — we call them "The Seven" — who lost their lives during World War II,” Robert Sousa recalled during the city's Veterans Day ceremony on Wednesday. "Joe turned to me and said: 'If you don't do anything else as commander of this post, make sure Joseph P. Sousa gets on that World War II monument, so I can die a happy man."
With Silva's persistence, and with the help of research from Peabody Veterans Services Agent Steve Patten, the freshly cleaned monument was revealed with Private Joseph Sousa's name added during a socially distanced ceremony that was held remotely this year due to the coronavirus health crisis.
"Thank you for the service and for making the ultimate sacrifice for your country. Know that the Portuguese-American War Veterans, the city of Peabody, and especially Joe Silva, have 'got your six,'" said Robert Sousa in reference to the Air Force mantra to never leaving an airman behind.
"The stars and the planets are once again in alignment," Robert Sousa said.
On what would have been the day of the city's fifth biennial Veteran's Day breakfast — with 350 people in attendance — Peabody hosted a 24-person ceremony at the monument that included a handful of speeches, the honoring of Private Joseph Sousa and local singing talent Dana Sheridan's rendition of the national anthem.
"Thank you to Veterans Services Officer Steven Patten and the Veterans Council for their research and advocacy to get Mr. Sousa's name etched onto the WWII memorial and for their efforts to maintain and preserve our war memorials," Mayor Ted Bettencourt said.