SHIRLEY -- With the board's light agenda quickly polished off Monday night, Selectmen Chairman Kendra Dumont took a moment to address an angry Letter to the Editor titled "Moral Bankruptcy" that ran in last week's Shirley Volunteer.
The writer, Leslie Seidel, harshly criticized "town government" and decried town leaders for failing to support the annual Veteran's Day luncheon, railing cynically at the selectmen's decision not to fund it after a request from the legion to do so.
"Funny, we have money for all kinds of nonsense in this town but no money to recognize our veterans on the national holiday set aside to honor them," Seidel said in the letter.
She scolded townspeople, too. "Enough with the lip service..." she said, calling on those who "appreciate our veterans" to call town officials and "complain about this latest outrage" and the "deplorable way" town veterans are treated.
"This veteran bashing has got to stop," she concluded.
Dumont took strong exception to such comments in a written statement she read aloud at the end of the meeting. People should be "outraged" at the letter and "contact the writer, not the Board of Selectmen" to say so, she said.
First off, the premise of the letter was wrong, she said. "This board can only spend money that is approved and appropriated at town meeting."
Because the Veterans Day event has never been funded before, there's no line item for it in the town budget and thus no place to take the money from, Selectman David Swain explained at the previous meeting.
The legion's request would have to be vetted through the usual channels and presented as a budget request at Town Meeting, he said.
Protocol aside, Dumont was clearly insulted at the notion that the selectmen, as representatives of the town, do not support local veterans. "There has never been a time that this board, when asked, has failed to attend (a veteran's event) or provide support for our Military past or present," she said.
For example, Selectmen Swain and former colleagues Andy Deveau and Enrico Cappucci helped create care packages for overseas troops during Operation Blanket, she said, when homemade blankets were sent to "wounded warriors" at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Citing other proofs of the town's patriotic efforts, Dumont said the school has a Veterans Day celebration, a bridge in town was named for its veterans and "we've supported several capital projects" that directly benefit veterans.
"As for the lip service comment, my reply is that this board's actions speak much louder than words!" she said.
"I could go on and on, but the point is, we should never forget why we live in a free country and this board absolutely has not forgotten," Dumont concluded.
She received several calls from veterans, she said, but they were supportive of selectmen, not angry with them, like Seidel, who is the spouse of the current post commander.