Woolwich honors its military veterans

Posted:  Sunday, November 12, 2017 - 8:45am

Retired U.S. Naval Commander and pilot James Gabor gave the keynote address at Woolwich’s Veterans’ Day ceremony Saturday, Nov. 11, at the historic Nequasset Meetinghouse. Men and women from the community having served in the Korean Conflict, Vietnam and Iraq wars were present and received a warm round of applause.

Debbie Locke served as master of ceremonies, saying Veterans’ Day was a time to remember men and women who served their country in the military during times of war and peace. Many residents who fought to preserve America’s freedoms are buried in the cemetery next door to the meetinghouse, she said.

Commander Gabor’s military career spanned 24 years. After graduating as a midshipman from the United States Naval Academy in 1975 , he was on deployment to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and to Okinawa, Japan where he served as Operations Officer stationed at the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Center on Kadena, Air Base. He also served in Western Europe and carried out other assignments throughout the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Gabor was eventually assigned to Patrol Squadron 23 at Brunswick Naval Air Station.

He began by asking if anyone in the audience knew what a  shadow Box was and its significance to military families. He said military shadow boxes, often triangular-shaped glass cases with wooden frames, are used today to display a service man or woman’s medals, patches and other memorabilia from their time of service. Gabor explained they originated from an old superstition during the time of sailing ships.

According to the legend, sailors returning from voyages believed if their shadow touched land before they set foot upon the shore, they’d suffer bad luck and misfortune. To prevent this from happening, sailors placed a few personal belongings in a small wooden box to represent, “a shadow of themselves.” As the legend goes, this allowed them to leave their ship and touch land ahead of their shadow avoiding bad luck.

Over time, the boxes evolved as a way of commemorating someone’s military service, explained Gabor. Today it is practiced by all branches of the military. Service men and women are typically presented with a shadow box at the time of their military retirement. Some like Gabor’s contain an American flag flown over the capital. During his service, Gabor was recognized for Meritorious and Humanitarian Service and accumulated over 3,600 pilot hours of accident-free flying. He and his wife Deb live on Ferry Road.

In his invocation, Rev. Dr. Alan Baughcum, pastor of Day’s Ferry Congregational Church, said Veterans’ Day began as a way to commemorate the peace following the end of World War I. Originally known as Armistice Day, it was later changed to Veterans Day. In recent years, he said, it’s become an occasion to honor those who have served their country in the armed services in times of conflict and peace alike.

Woolwich resident Lloyd Coombs, a former Woolwich selectman and Army veteran, posted and retired the colors. Korean War veteran Robert Meade of Woolwich led the gathering in a salute to the flag. Meade served in two branches of the U.S. military — the Army and­ the Marine Corps.

The Montsweagers provided music for the 90-minute program and played renditions of  “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” and a medley of military anthems.