The bridge spanning the Shawsheen River on The Great Road in Bedford will be dedicated posthumously on Saturday, May 27 to a local Air Force pilot with an astonishing record of aerial accomplishment.
Major Barry A. Seidman, who served for 20 years, flew 901 combat missions and logged more than 1,400 combat hours during his 27 months in Vietnam.
State Rep. Kenneth Gordon spearheaded the dedication and will preside at ceremonies beginning at noon on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The program will take place at Veterans Memorial Park to accommodate everyone safely. There will be closed circuit streaming from the bridge, where state Department of Transportation signage will be unveiled.
“Not only are we gathering to pay tribute to such an important war hero, but to thank the thousands of veterans who returned home in the Vietnam era who did not receive the welcome and gratitude they deserved,” Gordon said this week.
Seidman died in December 2020 at the age of 79 after suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Besides Gordon, speakers at the dedication are expected to include U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Col. Taona Enriquez, commander, 66th Air Base Group at Hanscom Air Force base, and a representative of Gov. Maura Healy’s administration. Gordon said he will be joined by Seidman’s wife Valerie, son Brian, two grandchildren, other family members, friends, and town officials.
In case of rain, the dedication ceremony will take place in Buckley Auditorium at Bedford High School.
The bridge, which is along the state highway portion of The Great Road, has been the site of a Memorial Day ceremony for more than 50 years, honoring naval veterans with a wreath deposited in the waters that flow to the Atlantic.
Seidman, who grew up in Belmont, graduated from Boston University in 1962 with a commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.
In Vietnam, Seidman primarily piloted a one-person metal observation aircraft called the 0-1, or Bird Dog. He received 36 air medals for valor and bravery, and according to his wife, “Each one was for a separate heroic act.”
He received the Silver Star for Bravery on March 24, 1967 after a mission in which he attracted the attention of enemy forces to protect American troops surrounded on the ground.
“His radio had died,” Valerie Seidman recounted. “He kept flying low to distract attention so the enemy would shoot at him and not the ground troops, time and time again. That saved hundreds of American lives. When the bombers came close enough, he set off a flare.”
The Seidmans met in 1968 when he was training at Westover Air Force Base near Chicopee to fly B-52 bombers and she was teaching in Northampton. They were married in 1970 after he spent 27 months in Vietnam.
After retiring and moving to Bedford in 1982, Seidman rarely spoke publicly about his service. “Vietnam veterans weren’t treated very well. And most veterans don’t like to talk about their war experiences,” Valerie Seidman said.
They chose Bedford because of its proximity to Hanscom Air Force Base, not to mention the family business, University Stationery Co. in Cambridge, near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It was only upon his death that Peter Demarkis, senior national service officer of Paralyzed Veterans of America, noticed Seidman’s exceptional service and advised Gordon. The legislator soon started the wheels turning leading to the bridge dedication.
“Major Seidman’s accomplishments in saving thousands of lives are worth this honor,” said Gordon. He expressed gratitude to his legislative partner, State Sen. Mike Barrett, “who joined me in this important legislation.” Barrett lives a five-minute drive from the bridge in Lexington.
Gordon also thanked former Gov. Charlie Baker, who signed the bill into law last September, and Gov. Maura Healey, “who threw her support behind this effort even before she was sworn into office.”
The state representative was the driver of an earlier bridge dedication, on Route 225 over the Concord River at the Carlisle line. That bridge was dedicated in 2018 to the memories of two BHS graduates killed in action in Iraq, Army Pfc. John Hart and Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Desiato.