“My respect and awe grows every year. This is the best post in Connecticut and serves the best town in Connecticut.”
—First Selectman Pat Llodra, remarking on VFW Post 308 and its members
A lot of laughter and a few tears accompanied the VFW Post 308’s 75th anniversary celebration Sunday, March 2.
Senator Richard Blumenthal squeezed through the crowded post on Tinkerfield Road (a/k/a Freedom Defenders Way), shaking hands with Vietnam veteran Roy Arvidson, and greeting others including 308’s Jr Vice Commander Ray Wisniewski, local officials, post members, state representatives, and supporters. Breaking from a quiet conversation with State Representative DebraLee Hovey, World War II infantry veteran and Past State Commander Edward Zamm carried a citation on behalf of current State Commander Robert Froelick. The citation recognizing post 308’s 75 years of service to veterans and the community came from the national VFW Commander-in-Chief William A. Thien.
Soon Post 308 Commander James Rebman, District 1 Commander Richard Kennedy, and others offered their thoughts to the gathered crowd.
After reciting The Pledge of Allegiance, while post member and veteran Donna Monteleone Randle read the Soldier’s Prayer to a hushed room, Mr Rebman began: “Seventy-five years ago members gathered to establish our post.” While little is known about the “early years,” he said, “Here we are 75 years later … I am honored to be commander during this event.”
Recognizing fellow veterans and post members as a “brotherhood,” Mr Rebman said, “We served [our country] with honor and courage, and now we serve our community. We’re here for the community and here for those who served.”
Senior Vice Commander Brendan Dlouhy thanked the post and men’s and women’s auxiliary members saying, “Without them, we could not accomplish what we do.” He mentioned a host of outreach work post members do in the community, including scholarship programs for students, sending supplies to servicemen and women overseas, placing flags on veterans’ graves, and he especially likes “chatting with the 50 veterans at [Masonicare of Newtown]. We made them all honorary members of Post 308.
“We support our 12/14 first responders, and support other areas of the country where tragedy has struck,” he continued.
Next addressing the room was First Selectman Pat Llodra: “My respect and awe grows every year. I have great respect for service and thank them for their service every day.”
Saying he was honored to be at the celebration, Senator Richard Blumenthal nodded to Mae and Bob Schmidle, mentioning their son, three-star US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Robert E. Schmidle Jr, “one of Newtown’s most famous sons in the military.”
Mr Blumenthal said of the VFW, “This type of organization provides an example, a model of patriotism to our next generation.” Members are an example for those who have served and are now serving, he added.
“We have to take care of our veterans — leave no veteran behind — help them with jobs, health care,” Mr Blumenthal said, adding, “I hope our veterans will continue to bring us together as a nation — there is no better example than Post 308.”
Commander Rebman then held a small bible wrapped in red, white, and blue, which members had retrieved from a drop box outside the post where residents can place flags to be retired. Holding up the small artifact, he noted that the person who left it remains anonymous, but based on a note included, Mr Rebman said, “This was a soldier’s who did not come home form World War II.”
Mr Zamm, one of the country’s first troops into Japan in World War II, next lifted the mood as he mentioned his turn as state commander in 1960. “I was the youngest at the time, and now I’m the oldest, I think.” He presented the Diamond Jubilee Award “in recognition of 75 years of exceptional service and support.”
Minutes later Men’s Auxiliary President Robert Arnold unveiled a framed plaque naming past commanders and post members. State Representative Mitch Bolinsky offered his best wishes for the post “reaching its milestone,” and Representative Dan Carter, also a veteran, said, “This is a wonderful day … affirmation that this VFW will continue to serve its community.”
Ms Hovey also thanked the post members, and wished them well. Longtime Newtown residents Bob and Mae Schmidle presented a gift to the VFW from their son, Lt Gen Schmidle Jr. Commander Rebman and Vice Commander Dlouhy unwrapped a silver plaque engraved with a dedication to the post.
Guests soon enjoyed a slice of cake ceremonially sliced by the post’s senior member, George Lockwood Sr, and younger member Carl Bergquist.