Michael Cabral retired as a sergeant in the United States Army in 2013 with a chest full of medals. He also had PTSD. Cabral fractured his back twice in training exercises and dislocated his shoulder so badly it had to be rebuilt, and, during his tour in Iraq, he said, “I was blown out of my bed twice by Iranian rockets.” He suffered neurological damage from the concussive shocks of the blasts.
Nonetheless, he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. But, he said, “My body just broke down.” For Cabral, every day — not just Veterans Day — is for reflecting on the sacrifices demanded by war.
Born in Provincetown to a family with deep roots here — his grandmother, Beatrice Cabral, is one of the women pictured in “They Also Faced the Sea,” the large photographs on Fisherman’s Wharf at the entry to Provincetown Harbor — Cabral, 54, joined the Army six years after graduating from high school. He had studied to be a chef at Johnson and Wales in Providence, so he began his Army career as a cook.
Military life can involve unexpected transitions. After 11 years in the kitchen, Cabral said, he was reclassified to Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Specialist and helped with the investigation into the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Cabral does not like to think about the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his view, the recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was a mistake. “They messed up by just turning over bases to the Taliban,” he said.
Cabral expressed ambivalence about the wars. “I’m still trying to figure out why we were there,” he said. Being in the service is an experience that sets veterans apart in good ways and bad, he added. But he remains proud of his service despite his conflicted feelings. “I would do it all over again,” he said.
He also faces contradictory reactions to his service. “When I first came back,” he said, he often heard “Thank you for your service.” More recently, young people in particular have been less kind, he said.
The challenge is to “stay true to the idealism that inspired us in the first place.”
After two marriages and four children, Cabral remarried this past June. His wife, Tara, came with six children from two marriages of her own. With their 10 children and three grandchildren, Cabral is proud to have “my own army.”
He was elected to the Pittsfield, N.H. Zoning Board, which he serves as chair.
On Veterans Day, Cabral will participate in two vigils, one with the VFW in Concord, N.H. and the other with the American Legion in Pittsfield, N.H.
There’s still one more thing to be done, he said. Sgt. Michael Cabral’s name has yet to be added to the Veterans Memorial plaque at town hall, the one that honors the wartime service after World War I of Provincetown natives.
Provincetown Veterans Day Events
Provincetown’s Veterans Day program will be held Thursday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. on MacMillan Pier, commemorating the armistice declared at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, at the end of World War I. Nov. 11 became a federal holiday in 1938.
The program will include the placing of a memorial wreath to honor all service members and casting of a wreath upon the sea to honor those who served in seagoing services. An honor guard of the U.S. Coast Guard and Provincetown Police Dept. will present the colors, and following introductions by Jim Keefe, the Rev. Edgar Miranda will offers prayers and Denise Russell will sing the national anthem and “Amazing Grace.” Thomas Steele, commander of the American Legion, will present remarks and Mike Coelho will play “Taps.”