MANCHESTER — Patients and visitors at the VA Medical Center got to see some prized hardware Monday, courtesy of the Boston Red Sox in celebration of Veterans Day.
The Red Sox sent a delegation and the club’s four most recent World Series trophies to the VA, where patients and their families got an up-close look at the championship memorabilia and posed with it for photos with it on Veterans Day.
“It’s special and I’m sure it’s special for a lot of other veterans. We might not get to see them again,” said Nathan Ryder, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Peterborough who stopped by the VA to pick up some medication and learned of the day’s special visitors.
Former Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen and Wally, the club’s mascot, were also part of the delegation and posed with the dozens of people who lined up and waited for their turn with the trophies won by the Red Sox in 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018.
Delcarmen, who was part of the ‘07 club that swept the Colorado Rockies for Boston’s second World Series title in four years, chatted with the fans and showed them his championship ring during the photo session.
“What they did for the country, sacrificing everything for us to be free, it’s unbelievable. I’m always happy to be able to do stuff like this and to give back,” Delcarmen said. “It’s pretty incredible. Just to see them smile and give them a little bit of brightness throughout the day, especially on Veterans Day, it’s well-deserved.”
While many patients at the hospital were aware of the day’s itinerary, many visitors were not.
Lisa Webster of Litchfield and her son, Camden, stopped by to drop off a collection of cards students in Webster’s first-grade class at Griffin Memorial School made specially for veterans on their day of recognition.
“They were so excited to do it. They put so much effort and hard work into it,” Webster said.
The VA also received a load of cards made by students at Mount St. Mary Academy in Manchester.
Dan Walulik of Amherst brought sons Aiden, 16, and Ben, 14, to the VA to visit with some of the patients.
Walulik, a former U.S. Navy Seabee, said the family was surprised to learn the Red Sox were also there and happily posed with the trophies and Delcarmen, who autographed hats for the boys and gave them a look at his ‘07 title ring.
“We were hoping to visit some veterans who were in the hospital and just say hello and help them to feel appreciated on Veterans Day,” Walulik said. “It’s definitely cool to honor these guys, especially on Veterans Day.”
Walulik also chatted for a few minutes with Dave Mann, a 92-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who served in World War II and outlived the dreaded “curse” he and fellow Boston fans endured for so long before the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series — their first since 1918.
“It took a long time for them to win it,” said Mann, who also noted that he felt the current roster could use some pitching upgrades.
Another visitor was Mike Grady, longtime owner of the former Collector’s Heaven sports memorabilia shop in Manchester, who had seen the trophies — or at least one of them — before. Grady, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Goffstown High School in 1966, said former Manchester Mayor Bob Baines brought the World Series trophy through the halls of the VA shortly after the Sox won it in ‘04. Some 15 years later, Grady said it was still touching to see his fellow veterans react to the trophies.
“We brought it to the rooms of people who couldn’t get out and about — who never believed that the Red Sox would even win the World Series while they were alive,” Grady said. “They got to see the trophy. They could touch it. I have never seen the emotions I saw that day.”
The trophies were on display for a little more than an hour before the Red Sox delegation had to hit the road for stops at other veterans homes in Bedford, Mass., and Boston.
“I think it’s great that the Red Sox Foundation wants to support veterans on Veterans Day,” said Kevin Forrest, interim director at the Manchester VA.
“It means a lot to our community.”