Rome VFW Post honors veterans
PIKE TOWNSHIP - A piece of cloth means a lot.
Just look at what some picnic-goers wore Sunday afternoon: Vietnam and Veterans Appreciation Day caps, blue VFW auxiliary T-shirts, a polo with red, white and blue stripes. An 82nd Airborne shirt. A bright red Torpedoman's Mate cap.
And one shirt may have said it all for them: It showed an eagle and flags and golden words. â¦ "Proud American."
Guests and helpers wore images of the things dearest to them at the second-ever veterans' picnic Sunday afternoon at Rome VFW Post 6824. The celebration, put on by the post's ladies auxiliary, honored veterans from that post and the area.
"It's a great event! I appreciate them doing it," Joe Karpauitz of Potterville, a Korean War veteran, said afterward.
Veterans and guests munched on hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans and other picnic food in the pavilion behind the post, north of LeRaysville near Haigh's Pond. After eating, veterans received citations from the auxiliary. World War II veterans also received flags for their branches of the service.
More than 20 veterans from different eras attended the picnic and posed for photos afterward, under a shiny blue auxiliary banner. "Serving veterans since 1914," it read -- the national VFW auxiliary is marking its 100th birthday.
One of the World War II vets present was Tom Colella of Sugar Run. Serving in Gen. George Patton's Third Army during World War II, Tom was in five European campaigns, including the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded twice.
"We did what we had to do," he said simply. "It's scary to think back."
"World War II veteran" declared words on a patch clinging to Tom's white T-shirt.
Fellow veteran Elwood Carr of Potterville also served in the Army. "We marched all the way across North Africa," he said. After that, he was in the Anzio, Italy, invasion. In the communications department, Elwood used to string wire along roads - "all that kind of stuff," he said. He finished as a staff sergeant.
"Wonderful! Nice crowd," he said of the picnic, as he sat holding a chocolate chip cookie.
In the meantime, Bob Cragle of the Rome area was aboard the USS Sanborn, a transport ship, in the Pacific. He was on his way to Japan when the war ended. Sunday he wore a Sanborn ballcap.
Bob Bosler of Orwell sat across the table from him. At age 95, he was the oldest World War II veteran present and received a U.S. flag that few over the state capitol. He also served aboard two battleships, a sub chaser and a sea plane tender.
His most vivid memory of the Navy? "Liberty!" he declared and laughed. "Chasing the women!"
Ah, yes, Bob Cragle remembers liberty, too. Specifically, in Tijuana. "Tijuana!" the other Bob reminisced. "I've been there and done that!"
"Far from Potterville, huh?" Iola Cragle, Bob Cragle's wife, quipped.
Patricia Burlington of LeRaysville, a World War II cadet nurse, also attended. Though not officially considered veterans, cadet nurses were part of the war effort. Because so many registered nurses left hospitals to help the military, the Cadet Nurse Corps program was set up. The government paid for their training and "in exchange the student nurse promised to remain in essential military or civilian nursing for the duration of the war," according to a brochure compiled by Robert Packer Hospital School of Nursing alumni.
Pat brought her pinstriped summer CNC uniform to the picnic. "We thought we were pretty sharp!" she commented to auxiliary member Diane Elliott, about her suit. Pat received a U.S. flag from the auxiliary. Pat's late husband, Ken, was a World War II veteran.
Lester Price Jr. of Wyalusing, wearing the 82nd Airborne shirt, served in that famous division, as did his son, Lester III. His father was in the infantry during World War II, and his daughters, Anne Marie and Kathleen, also served in the Army. "I could go on and on," he said of family veterans. Today, Lester Jr. bears an 82nd tattoo on his left arm.
Allen Wilbur - with the "Proud American" shirt - knows how Lester feels. For more than 20 years, he too served in the 82nd, in places like Hawaii, Korea and Okinawa and during the Vietnam War. It was "fun back there," the Wyalusing resident said but admitted, "I don't know if I'd want to do it again."
Annie Eastabrook, auxiliary president, in a flag-print tank top, was pleased with the picnic. "It was a good turnout, nice weather," she said. "They really appreciate it," she added of the veterans. "I think they really enjoy it."
Fellow auxiliary member Chris Thetga - with a stars and stripes scarf under her collar - agreed. "It's marvelous! They are so grateful."
At the end of the picnic, she sat at a table with Joe. The burgers had been eaten, the pictures snapped. And the caps and shirts and scarves had been worn.
The Korean War veteran summed everything, what it was all about. It was about another piece of fabric. â¦
"That little piece of cloth," he said - the U.S. flag on the pole at the front of the pavilion. He'd call that "a good piece of cloth."
Joe and the other special guests served it, and that afternoon the auxiliary honored that service.
A piece of cloth means a lot.
VFW Post 6824 Auxiliary member Diane Elliott reminds everyone of the annual Bradford County Veterans Appreciation Day picnic July 20 in Wysox.