Monday, August 13, 2012

War Strikes Home in Norton

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 13, 2012.

By Bill Gouveia

War is an awful thing, and in war people die.  Those people have homes, families, friends and neighbors who care about them.  They all come from somewhere, both originally and lately.  We read about them in the newspapers and see and hear their stories on radio and television.  We appreciate the grim sacrifice they have made for us, and we mourn their loss.

But Master Sgt. Gregory R. Trent didn’t come from just anywhere.  He came from Norton, the small town I have called home for almost all my 56 years on this planet.  He was one of our kids – one of Norton’s boys – and he gave his life in defense of his country.  And that has affected me in a far greater way than I anticipated.

I didn’t know Master Sgt. Trent, or at least I never remember meeting him.  He graduated from Norton High School in 1992.  That’s the same school my late father graduated from, where my wife and I graduated from in 1974, and where my two sons graduated in 1997 and 2000 respectively. 

Master Sgt. Trent learned in the same classrooms where I was taught.  He ate lunch in the same cafeteria, exercised in the same gymnasium, and received his diploma on the same stage.  His parents lived in town, he probably watched or marched in some of the local parades, and he no doubt knew people I knew and shared many of the same local experiences.

But he went on to greater service than I ever have or will.  He enlisted in 1998 and volunteered for Special Services in 2006.  He earned the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart, as well other impressive awards.  He had been stationed not only in Afghanistan, but also previously in Iraq. 

Since I did not know him, I find it a little strange that news of his untimely death has struck me in this manner.  There is little I am aware of that separates this fine young man from thousands of others I have read about over the last several years with sorrow and pain.  Why should I feel more for him than any of them?  They all gave their lives trying to make sure I and others like me can continue to enjoy the freedoms we so take for granted.

But Master Sgt. Gregory Trent was from Norton, and to me and so many others here that will make him different.  It places this War on Terror in a different light and perspective than just yesterday.  Now maybe that’s wrong.  Maybe I should have felt this way about all the other young lives tragically ended on far away battlefields since that fateful day of September 11, 2001.  But I didn’t, and though I regret it I can’t change that now.

I wonder if I ever stood behind Master Sgt. Trent in line at Roche Brothers.  Maybe I sat across from him at a picnic table at the Norton Hot Dog Stand.  Did I ever bump into him coming in or out of Haskins Pharmacy?  Was he one of the thousands of kids I saw on the Norton Youth Baseball fields over the years?  Did I ever knock on his family’s door when I was running for office?

I can’t help but notice he is not that much older than my own children.  That could have been them mortally wounded in some far away land, being transferred home and dying in a military hospital.  Master Sgt. Trent is survived by a daughter, and I cannot even fathom my grandson or granddaughter growing up without their father. 

Norton will always be a small town in my mind, even though it is now a community of about 20,000 people.  It is a great place to live and raise a family.  It produces great citizens who go on to do great things in life.  Master Sgt. Gregory Trent will forever be one of those most remembered.

The horror of war has come to Norton in a big way.  Our thoughts, prayers and hearts go out to the family of Master Sgt. Trent.  He will forever be a son of Norton, and an entire town leads a grateful nation in honoring his life and his memory.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and lifelong Norton resident.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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