The following is an excerpt from commander-in-chief Gen. John A. Logan s Memorial Day Order issued from the headquarters of the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868. It was the General Orders No. 11:
1. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
2. It is the purpose of the commander-in-chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
From this section:
Westerly school bus drivers feel snubbed in contract talks
Parade on Monday
In keeping with this tradition, on Monday the Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Board of Control will observe Memorial Day with a parade that starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Pawcatuck Shopping Center back parking lot, 37 South Broad St., Pawcatuck. The parade will march down Pequot Trail and continue to Route 1 where it will stop for a brief ceremony at the World War I Memorial. It will then continue into downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck and conclude with ceremonies at the bandstand gazebo at Wilcox Park in Westerly. As an additional note, what is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day? Many people confuse the two holidays. Memorial Day is a day for honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served have sacrificed and done their duty. Rhode Island VFW
The Department of Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary 98th Annual State Convention will be held June 8 to 11 at the Radisson Hotel in Warwick. At the convention, William Siano, commander of VFW Post 8955 in Westerly, will be sworn in as the department commander for 2017-18.
Along with the installation of new officers, Dora Vasquez-Hellner will be recognized as the Department High School Teacher of the Year. This award is presented to teachers who promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism. Vasquez-Hellner also plans field trips to town halls, organizes community volunteer projects, and invites local veterans to speak in class anything to help students develop a better understanding of democratic values and beliefs. Vasquez-Hellner, an Army veteran, teaches Spanish at Westerly High School. Veterans Breakfast
Retired Brig. Gen. Peter Zwack, former U.S. senior defense official and attach to the Russian Federation, and veterans advocate Wayne F. Smith, a former Vietnam War medic, will be the featured speakers at U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse s 10th Annual Veterans Breakfast and Resource Fair on June 17 at the National Guard Warwick Armory, 541 Airport Road. The event will be from 9 to 11 a.m. The breakfast is free for veterans and their families. Resource tables and representatives from state, federal, and nonprofit agencies will be on hand to connect veterans with opportunities for employment, VA benefits, and claims, continuing education, and other programs. To RSVP or for more information, please call the senator s office at 401-453-5294.
Installation of new officers for the Post and Auxiliary was held on May 13. William Siano was sworn in once again as Post commander, and Peggy Azzinaro as Auxiliary president. On behalf of the members, Siano was presented with a plaque by Senior Vice Commander John Barber for his over 20 years of service to the Amancio-Falcone-Gaccione VFW Post. Project Outreach: This service is available to all veterans and their families who are in need of information regarding the numerous resources/agencies that are available. Our outreach officer is ready to meet with you the first Wednesday and third Monday of each month from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Post Home, 113 Beach St., Westerly. No appointments is needed to meet with Service Officer Walter Kimball, 401-596-0470. The VFW welcomes all who meet our eligibility criteria. It is through service to this country that all our members have earned their elite status. If you have received a campaign medal for overseas service; have served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea; or have ever received hostile fire or imminent danger pay, then you are eligible to join our ranks.
New members are always welcome to attend our monthly meetings. The next one is June 7 at 6:30 p.m. at our Post Home. Meetings are the first Wednesday of each month. If you know of a comrade or family of comrade in distress, please contact Comrade Dora Vasquez-Hellner, 401-212-6377, for assistance.
This week in U.S. military history
1984 On Memorial Day the only American Unknown Soldier from the Vietnam War was laid to rest at ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, attended by 250,000 people. President Reagan, named as an honorary next of kin, delivered the eulogy at the hero s funeral, and urged greater efforts to locate the more than 2,400 service members still missing. The remains were unearthed in 1998 for DNA testing and possible identification. They were later identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, and were sent to St. Louis for hometown burial.
House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas, R-Richmond, and Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound.
The Texas House voted Saturday evening to approve a $217 billion, two-year budget that would boost funding for the state’s beleaguered child welfare agency, increase the number of state troopers on the Texas-Mexico border and avoid serious reforms to the state’s much-criticized school finance system. The final vote was 135-14. The Texas Senate was still debating the bill but was expected to vote on it soon. Scrounging for cash in a tight-fisted legislative session, budget leaders from both chambers agreed to a compromise that settled a bitter debate over how to finance the state budget. The two-year budget is shored up by both $1 billion taken from the state s savings account, often referred to as the Rainy Day Fund, and an accounting trick that would use nearly $2 billion from a pot of funding intended for highway projects. The House had favored tapping the Rainy Day Fund and leaving the transportation funding alone. The Senate had taken the opposite position.
“The budget today is a product of what is a true compromise” between the Texas House and Senate, said state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, the lower chamber’s lead budget writer. The two legislative chambers originally unveiled budgets that were nearly $8 billion apart.
This budget is smart. This budget is compassionate. It makes huge advances in several of our priority areas, Nelson said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
- ^ Edgar Walters (www.texastribune.org)
- ^ The Texas Tribune (www.texastribune.org)
- ^ John Zerwas (www.texastribune.org)
- ^ originally unveiled budgets that were nearly $8 billion apart (www.texastribune.org)
- ^ Jane Nelson (www.texastribune.org)
- ^ The Texas Tribune (www.texastribune.org)
- ^ statewide issues (www.texastribune.org)
There were no safe places.
That s how Culpeper Air Force veteran Kerry Romesberg describes Vietnam during his six-month stint at Phu Cat Air Base in 1969. The reality of North Vietnamese guerrilla tactics such as sniper fire, booby traps and organized raids meant never letting your guard down. That, and the constant barrage of rockets and mortars raining down on a nearby American military base. Still, his time in Vietnam holds some of his most cherished memories of a long military service and distinguished federal government career.
The oldest of seven children, Romesberg was born on a farm in Rockwood, Pennsylvania. A November snowstorm in 1948 forced the local doctor to travel on a sleigh to deliver the 11-pound Romesberg into the world. A bonafide Pennsylvania farm boy, Romesberg wasn t sure what he d do for a living. His grandfather and father, both military veterans, also worked in the field of journalism, which was one option. But then, in 1965, the 17-year-old high school senior received a visit from an armed forces recruiter. After taking the aptitude tests, Romesberg was offered a position in Navy intelligence in Washington, DC. The opportunity, and the accompanying salary, were too good for the teenager to pass up.
But with growing American involvement in a war raging a hemisphere away, Romesberg knew it was only a matter of time before he d be drafted to serve overseas. In 1966, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was assigned to the Air Police. He traveled to Texas for training.
I got my draft notice when I was already in basic training, he said. He requested a post at Andrews Air Force Base (now Joint Base Andrews) in Prince George s County, Maryland, but was instead assigned to a post in South Korea. From there, he saw the marshaling of U.S. forces explode.
The base went from 700 to 7,000 in a week, he said. Because he already had clearances for handling classified information, Romesberg landed a desk job processing security clearances for others during his tour in South Korea. As his time there came to a close, others warned him not to request a return to the states because he d likely end up somewhere like South Dakota.
Again, the young man pressed for a posting at Andrews.
I got Rapid City, South Dakota, he said, laughing. To pass the time, the Air Police crew there would often go out to play cowboys and Indians with squirt guns. They d ride horses. Sometimes they d go to town. They visited the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. There wasn t much else to occupy their time. While there, Romesberg volunteered to train for a new, elite 500-man squadron of Combat Security Police within the Air Force generally known as Rangers. He was sent to Fort Campbell in Kentucky to learn survival and weapons skills used to repel raiding parties in Vietnam. After six months of training, he boarded a nonstop transport for Qui Nhon Airfield.
I was lucky, he said. Most got three days of survival training before they landed in Vietnam.
There, he worked with his unit and the Korean Tiger division (Capital Mechanized Infantry) to provide base security. It was a close-knit group.
There wasn t a man in that squadron who wouldn t have cut their arm off for the commander, he said. He was a Lt. Col. and he crawled through the mud just like we did. Eventually, however, the Air Force decided the Ranger concept of swapping out units every six months wasn t working. When he finished his tour, Romesberg flew back to England Air Force Base in Louisiana and was asked to submit a new assignment request. He asked, yet again, for Andrews.
It was what I wanted, he said, laughing about his time as a desk sergeant at the coveted post. And it was probably the worst nine months of my career. When a VIP flies in, the base essentially closes down and everyone hates you.
Still, for a man in his early 20s, Romesberg felt lucky. When his time at Andrews ended, he had a job waiting. And he immediately started sporting a ponytail and a beard.
I went to work for the Navy again and also worked at the Pentagon in defense supply, he said. It was while working as a federal contracting officer at Ballston in Arlington that he was approached by a Navy chief about another possible assignment.
He said, Kerry, let s go down the cafeteria. I d like to talk to you, Romesberg recalled. He asked me, Kerry, you ve been in Vietnam, right? How would you like to go back to Vietnam? A two-rank promotion and a housing allowance sealed the deal. Romesberg called his parents and asked them if they d garage his beloved 1963 Buick convertible.
Less than three weeks later, Romesberg boarded a plane to Saigon where he spent the next 18 months in the defense attache s office handling access to classified information for operatives, both overt and covert. Safely home well before the city fell in 1975, he worried for his remaining friends and their families attempting to evacuate. One of his personal heroes was the station manager for Flying Tiger Airline who told his employees to show up at the airport and he d get them out.
He was kicking off the Vietnamese police, and the plane took off without permission, Romesberg said. He meant what he said. He got them out. To top off his 39-year career as a public servant, Romesberg worked for four years as a program manager on various Native American reservations.
About 80 percent of the residents don t have basic communications, many don t even have electricity, he said. And more than that live in abject poverty. I think the Native Americans are entitled to everything they can derive now.
Continuing to honor all of his heroes is a priority for the Air Force vet. He serves on the Honor Guard for Culpeper s VFW Burton-Hammond Post 2524 showing his deep respect at area veteran funerals.
We ve done about 50 already this year, he said. We did seven just last week. In VFW organizations across the country, Romesberg said, there s a enormous need for new members.
It s kind of a hard sell, he said. There just isn t the same veteran mentality these days. I m a Vietnam veteran and I m one of the younger ones! He d like to see veterans of all ages get involved and he believes many organizations aren t doing enough to recruit and keep them with activities that younger people enjoy.
I have so much respect for the people who are volunteering today, Romesberg said. They serve five or six terms. No one is making them.
Along with his peers in the Honor Guard, Romesberg plans to participate at the 11 a.m. ceremony Monday at Culpeper National Cemetery. He reserves his greatest respect for those heroes we recognize on Memorial Day.
There s no more that you can give, he said.