NEWS

Burlington Public Library exhibit honors three generations who served in war

Margaret Smith

Robert Gouveia of Burlington returned home from a trip to the Billerica junk yard one day in 1967, looking for car parts, when his mother and father gave him the news.

The 18-year-old, who had just graduated from Burlington High School, received his draft notice and was soon on his way, first to Germany and then to Vietnam, where he served for about a year, guarding prisoners of war, among other duties.

He recalled, ”I was fixing my 1958 Chevy.… I come home from the junkyard, and my mother is crying. My dad is standing there. He said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’”

His father, Seraphin Gouveia, who died recently at age 86, knew the experience of war well. He had served in the 9th Infantry Division in World War II, fighting in Germany and France, where, amid the chaos and violence, he had a chance encounter with his brother in-law Robert Medeiros.

Far from home, the elder Gouveia carried a packet of family photos in his pocket – which, his son said, is what saved him when a bullet struck.

The Gouveia family has collected photos, mementos and memories honoring several generations who fought in wars from the Civil War to Vietnam for an exhibit through November at Burlington Public Library.

Some recall David Eaton, Robert’s wife Nancy Gouveia’s great-great-great grandfather, who sustained a bullet wound at the Battle of Gettysburg and died 13 days later from his injuries, while being treated as a farm that services at Trousel Farm, which serviced as a hospital.

The Gouveias hope other veterans will see their own experiences in the exhibit, but also hope a new generation, including those not old enough to remember Vietnam or World War II, will also learn from it.

“It’s just to see, the different experiences people went through,” Nancy Gouveia said. “It’s to see it through their eyes.”

"Gouveia: One Family, Three Wars" is on view through November in the lobby of the Burlington Public Library, 22 Sears St., Burlington. Free. For more information, call 781-270-1693 or visit wwww.burlingtonpubliclibrary.org.

Margaret Smith is Arts and Calendar editor at GateHouse Media New England's Northwest Unit. E-mail her atmsmith@cnc.com.