Happy Veterans Day from the Brothers of Mercy Wellness Campus! To the men and women of our Armed Forces, we thank you for your service.
The communities on the Brothers of Mercy Wellness Campus observed Veteran’s Day 2019 in a variety of ways. Montabaur Heights Independent Living held a special celebration in honor of Veterans Day. Guests enjoyed music, refreshments and a special display which included “America’s White Table” and testimonials from residents and BOM team members who have served in the military (featured below). Brother Superior Kenneth Thomas, an Air force veteran, along with members of the Skilled Nursing Center Veteran’s Club, residents and staff, gathered for a commemorative presentation at the Skilled Nursing & Rehab center. Sacred Heart Assisistive Living enjoyed a presentation by naval veteran Thomas Villa, who serves as a docent at the Buffalo Naval & Military Park. Thomas is the husband of BOM Spiritual Care Director Renee Villa, and eagerly presented our residents with a virtual tour of the Naval Park. Poems written in honor of Veteran’s Day, by the daughters of SHH Administrator Mindee McDonald, were also recited to and enjoyed by residents.
Featured below are some Veteran’s Stories from members of the Brothers of Mercy Community, written in collaboration with BOM Enrichment Director Ashlie Kolhagen:
Brother Fidelis Verrall: Brother Fidelis is a 1957 graduate of North Tonawanda High School. He had a job working in a laboratory when the draft suddenly landed him in the U.S. Army in 1961. “I was drafted during the Berlin Crisis when Kennedy was President….so I had no choice. It was ‘Uncle Sam wants you’ and away I had to go.” Brother Fidelis was stationed in Bamberg, Germany and served by doing Reconnaissance on the border dividing East and West Berlin. He was a guard here for three years and then they put him up on the Berlin Wall. Though he was a layperson when he was serving in the military, Brother Fidelis knew that the General Motherhouse for the Brothers of Mercy was in Montabaur, Germany. He took a three day leave, spending it at the Motherhouse, and got to witness firsthand the Brothers of Mercy living the mission. Upon his return home after discharge, he decided to try religious life. Brother Fidelis claims he “made the right decision” and has been a Brother for more than 50 years, serving as the Director of Spiritual Care for many years. Brother says “Though he did not enter the military by choice, his four years in the Army served him well.”
Brother Kenneth Thomas: Brother Kenneth began his active duty with the Air Force in 1978. He was then sent to Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, Florida, serving as a cook and diet therapy specialist for 2 years. He was promoted through the ranks to Airman First Class (E-3), and later transferred to Memmingen Air Base in 1980, serving as a cook and Security Police Augmentee in Germany until May 1983. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant (E-5), later studying Training Systems Technology at a tech school at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. He then served as a Squadron on-the-job Training Manager for the 1987th Communications Squadron in Denver. In 1984, he was selected as the Lowry Technical Center On-the-job Training Manager of the year! He transferred to Kunsan Air Base in South Korea in August ’85, serving as a Training Scheduler for 343 Tactical Fighter Wing, Deputy Commander of Maintenance and then working in the Base On-the-job Training office for 18 months (where he was promoted to the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6)). He also completed two Associates Degrees; one in Training Systems Technology and the other in Food Service and Lodging. In August 1989, Brother Kenneth decided to leave Active Duty and enter civilian life. However, in September of 1989 he moved to Dayton, Ohio and from here he was transferred to the USAF Reserves Rickenbacker Air Base in Columbus, Ohio where he served as a Unit Training Manager. After several months at Rickenbacker, Brother Kenneth was transferred again to a Reserve Unit at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Here he served both Maintenance Training and as a Squadron Training Manager. The bad news is that his Reserve Unit was activated during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. But the good news is that they remained at Wright-Patterson and were only activated for two weeks. Brothers Kenneth was medically discharged due to a back injury he suffered in 1985 in Korea. He was unable to continue to serve in the Reserves. He has been a Disabled veteran since 1992. But he didn’t stop learning and thriving! He earned his Bachelor’s Degree of Science Degree in Management from Park University.
Harold Jauch: Harold spent 8 weeks in basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After basic training he was hoping to be an Air Traffic Controller, but the Air Force had other ideas… so off he went for 10+ months at Good Fellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. Here he trained as a Radio Intercept Operator and Analyst. While at Tech School, he was vetted for top-secret code-word/crypto security clearance. During the next step in his service, he spent 1 year at Hickham Air Force Base, followed by 1 year at Wheeler Air Force Base on the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii (He is not allowed to tell much about this due to the classified nature of his duties). The last stop along the way was at the National Security Agency Headquarters at Fort George G. Mead in Maryland….again, all classified. But he is able to say this, “It was very interesting and sometimes a bit scary. It was so interesting, in fact, that I was considering either staying in the Air Force or taking my discharge and returning to NSA as a civilian”. However, due to the death of this father, neither panned out. “During my service I was awarded several citations and awards for the tracking of some of America’s ‘best kept’ aircraft secrets, as well as the usual sharpshooter and service ribbons.” Harold ended by staying, “I loved the service and what I did. And I love my Country!”
Conrad Wahl: Conrad is a Korean War Veteran. He proudly served our country in the Arm from 1952 to 1954. As a Communications Wireman, Conrad saw heavy combat at the battles of Heartbreak Ridge and Christmas Hill. He almost lost his life on his 21st birthday while under heavy attack, just months before the armistice was signed. He served in the 45th Infantry Division, 179th Infantry Regiment and 3rd Battalion.
Thomas Maguire: In September, 1944 at the age of 17, Thomas enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Since he had been a Pre-Med student at Boston College, he was automatically made a Corpsman (the Navy term for Medic). After completing boot camp at N.T.S. Sampson in Upstate N.Y., he was sent to Corps School in San Diego. He was then assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps. (The Corps was dependent on the Navy for all medical personnel). He was sent to Camp Pendleton in California for Marine Corps Indoctrination and Field Training. In June 1945 Thomas was sent to Camp Maui in Hawaii, one of the major Marine Corps staging areas in the pacific theatre of war (as well as the pacific headquarters for the 4th Division). Thomas was assigned to an infantry company and started drilling very hard for what they knew was to be the Invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. “There was a lot of conjecture as to how much resistance we would get from civilian populace, but we did know there were more than 500,000 well trained, well-armed and mostly experience Japanese troops ready for us. We just didn’t know when or where it would take place…(Years later, when the Invasion plans were declassified, Thomas learned his outfit was scheduled to land with the first wave on the southern tip of Kyushu on or about November 1st…so when President Truman (God Bless Him) made the decision to drop the bombs, we were spared from what would have been a terrible campaign)”. Just after the formal surrender, Thomas was given back to the Navy and assigned to a base on the Island of Majuro, in the Marshall Islands. In March, he was sent home on a 30 day leave, after which he was assigned to the U.S. Mona Island- a repair shop anchored off Yorktown V.A. (this was his only sea duty). His points were up in June and he was discharged on July 7th, 1946. As a third class petty officer (in those days they were called a Pharmacist Mate 3/C), he then enjoyed two months of pure recreation and returned to Boston College in September.
Paul Parkot: Paul enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in October of 1969. His draft number was almost certain to get picked, so he beat the draft by enlisting himself. Paul graduated from boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey in December 1969, just before Christmas. After a few weeks off he received orders to head to Rockaway, New York. This is a life boat station, search and rescue. As the ‘new guy’ he was given the lowest of duties consisting of cleaning and the standing midnight watches; After some time at Rockaway, the Ambrose Light Tower, in the middle of NY Harbor, was in need of a seaman. Considered to be isolated duty, his schedule consisted of two weeks on/one week off, during which he would often return to Buffalo (thanks to $25 roundtrip plane fare!). As the ‘new guy’ and a seaman, he got the midnight watch and aid in navigation…he would put out a radio signal beacon, conduct weather conditions, and monitor emergency radio traffic & coast guard frequencies. Other duties of the midnight shift included cleaning the station as well as conducting engine room readings on the generators and fire suppression equipment. Paul was taught the most important duty of the seaman was ‘painting and rust removal’ of the equipment. “We were generally relieved from the tower by U.S.C.G. helicopter or if in poor weather by coast patrol boat. Now there was a ride in rough weather and cold, plus the winds,” Paul recalls laughing. After a while working at Ambrose, Paul was given orders to head to Governors Island in New York City, the Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa. It was a 205-foot tug boat that “always needed paint”. He was assigned to the deck force, cleaning, painting and steering the ship. They went on many search and rescue missions and were also sent up and beyond the East Coast waters on ‘Fishery Patrol’. They surveyed U.S. waters and enforced the 200-mile boundary of fishing vessels in the U.S., also assisting ships and persons in dangerous situations. The famous movie ‘The Perfect Storm’ is the story of the Tamaroa, doing a rescue during a terrible storm in the Atlantic where lives were lost (The October Storm). Paul served four years in the Coast Guard and considers it “a good experience for the most part”. He left at the rank of Boatswain Mate, Third Class, as his enlisted was up and he saw no need to stay forever.