Veterans Day 2018

Veterans Day 2018 was a chilly day,  but a very special one.  Thanks to our Rye City leadership, the WWI flagpole was completed  in time to honor the 100th Anniversary of WWI.  The pole and flag looked glorious in the crisp blue sky.  And the plaques shined beautifully.

Commander Fred de Barros led the ceremony.  In addition to the keynote by Maj Gen Robert Gruber, USAF (Ret.), we heard remarks by Mayor Cohn, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, NYS Assemblyman Otis and others.  The music was beautiful and led by Robin Latimer, Rye Legion Auxiliary.

It was a fitting day to honor all veterans.

 

 

Veterans Day 2018 Speaker Announced

Rye American Legion Post 128 is delighted to announce that Major General Robert Gruber, (Ret) will be the keynote speaker at the Rye Veterans Day 2018 ceremony which will take place on Monday,  November 12 at 10:30 am at Rye City Hall.

Major General Robert I. Gruber is a retired United States Air Force officer who served as an assistant to the director, Air National Guard, for special projects, as the Air National Guard assistant to the judge advocate general and as principal advisor on Air National Guard legal services matters to the judge advocate general. His responsibilities included training oversight and operational readiness of more than 260 Air National Guard attorneys and more than 160 Air National Guard paralegals, and as chair of the judge advocate general’s Air National Guard council, coordinating policies and programs for Air National Guard judge advocates and paralegals with the judge advocate general and the director, Air National Guard.

Maj_Gen_Robert_Gruber

Major General Robert I. Gruber served as an assistant to the director, Air National Guard, for special projects. The special projects included the proposed uniform state code of military justice and manual for courts martial. He previously served as the Air National Guard assistant to the judge advocate general, United States Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, District of Columbia. He then served as the principal advisor on Air National Guard legal services matters to the judge advocate general. His responsibilities included training oversight and operational readiness of more than 260 Air National Guard attorneys and more than 160 Air National Guard paralegals, and as chair of the judge advocate general’s Air National Guard council, coordinating policies and programs for Air National Guard judge advocates and paralegals with the judge advocate general and the director, Air National Guard.

The general was commissioned as a judge advocate in March 1976. In addition to his staff judge advocate assignments, he principally authored and edited the first edition of the widely acclaimed Air National Guard Commanders Legal Deskbook, which has become a staple of the libraries of every Air National Guard commander and judge advocate. The general was also one of the Air National Guard’s primary instructors and innovators of teaching methods at the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

During his tenure at Maxwell, the general created the Contemporary Base Issues course, a participatory interactive problem-solving program for commanders and their key staff that was conducted six times each year and institutionalized as a mandatory program in the Air National Guard. The general also conceived the Air National Guard Law Office course that expedited the effectiveness and familiarity of newly accessed judge advocates and paralegals with the unique law practice in an Air National Guard legal office. In addition, the general spearheaded the design of the day-long legal curriculum and teaching methods for the Air National Guard Senior Commanders course.

In recognition of the general’s contributions and accomplishments, the United States Air Force established the “Major General Robert I. Gruber Excellence in Teaching Award,” which is annually bestowed on the Air National Guard judge advocate or paralegal who best exemplifies the general’s creative and innovative teaching techniques.

While serving as a traditional member of the Air Force National Guard, Gruber pursued a civilian career as an attorney.

Gruber was born and raised in Port Chester, NY. He is married and has three daughters.

WWII POW Thomas DeCaro Honored

 

Rye resident Thomas DeCaro, a WWII veteran,  was presented his POW medal by US Congressman Elliot Engel and County Executive George Latimer on Wednesday,  September 12 at Rye City Hall. Mr. DeCaro was represented by his family due to his inability to attend the ceremony.

Commander Fred De Barros represented the Post. Mr. DeCaro’s wartime biography follows.

 

Thomas G. DeCaro  was born on July 2, 1921 to Nicholas and Mary DeCaro, here New York. He attended public high school in the Bronx and upon graduation joined the United States Army. Within the first year of being in the Army, Japan, bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. At that point he transferred from the field artillery into the U.S. Army Corp to commence pilot training. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and promoted to First Lieutenant. He was assigned to a B-17 squadron that was flying out of the United Kingdom and bombing sites in Germany. At this point in the war there was no fighter aircraft cover to escort the B-17’s during bombing missions and proximally 50% of his squadron was shot down during each mission. He made his first mission in May or June of 1943. His second mission was on June 13, 1943 and his plane was shot down over the Danish Peninsula. He was wounded in the attack by German fighters and knocked unconscious. When he awoke, the plane was on fire and spiraling torts of Baltic Sea below. He made his way to the bomb-bay area of the aircraft where he found the pilot hung up on the bomb-bay rack and that the rest of the crew had already bailed-out. He assisted the pilot and getting free from the bomb-bay rack, and he and the pilot successfully bailed-out of the aircraft.

 

He landed waist deep in the water of the Baltic Sea off a Danish beach. It was a windy day, and before he could disconnect from his parachute it filled and dragged him out to sea. He was fortunate enough to be recovered by a local fishing vessel, who turned him over to the German authorities. Thereafter, he was provided with medical care and attention by the German Army and ultimately interned in several different prisoner war camps for the next 23 months. He was liberated from prison camp when General Patton’s 3rd Army pushed into the region where his final POW was located.

 

Upon return from the European theater his parents held a party to celebrate his safe return. At that time, his father was a machinist in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and he invited several of the women who were working in the Navy Yard as “Rosy the Riveter” to join the celebration. It was at this party that Thomas met Violet Lewis, who was a worker at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and after a short courtship they married. They remained married until her  passing last April. At the time of her passing they had been married more than 71 years.

2018-19 Post Kick-off Meeting

Plan to attend the Rye Post 128 2018-19 kick-off meeting on Thursday, September 20 at 7:30 PM at the Rye Recreation in Rye.

At this meeting we will outline our goals, mission and key activities for the year. Rye Post 128 leads many community activities to foster service to veterans, patriotism in the community, and sponsorship of youth programs. Our key activities include:

  • Rye Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies
  • Sponsorship of Rye High School essay scholarships
  • Service to Montrose VA hospital patients
  • Auxiliary leads Rye Memorial Day parade activities

The Rye Post has been serving the city since 1919 and is its only active veterans’ organization.  Your participation and support is critical to continued advocacy for veterans’ rights and benefits as well as for our community-focused programs.  Applications for membership will be available at the meeting.

We look forward to seeing you.

Officer Installation Picnic – June 2018

We had good turnout on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for our Officer Installation Picnic. Fred de Barros was installed as Commander, Gene Collins as Finance Officer, Tim Moynihan (in abstentia for installation) as Adjutant and Nick Loddo as Sergeant at Arms.  The Auxiliary did a great job decorating the pavilion!

Have a great summer and we hope to see you  at the next Post meeting in September.

 

RYE HONORS ITS WAR DEAD ON MEMORIAL DAY 2018

Update: Coverage by Rye Record at  http://ryerecord.com/index.php/8-weekly-columns/6519-memorial-day

On Memorial Day, May 28, 2018 the City of Rye carried on its tradition of honoring deceased veterans. Rye American Legion Post 128 and the Auxiliary sponsored a parade which featured horseback riders, fire trucks, Milton School cyclists, the Wells-Fargo Stagecoach, Boys and Girls Scouts and local government officials.

American Legion Post 128 Commander Fred de Barros welcomed all to the Village Green. Rye City Mayor Josh Cohn also welcomed guests, as did Westchester Executive George Latimer, NYS Senator Shelley Mayer and NYS Assemblyman Steve Otis. The roll of honor was read by Legionnaire Terry McCartney.

The keynote speaker was Rye resident and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, Col. Ken Rathje, USA (Ret.). He highlighted his experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ceremony also featured the traditional reading of the Gettysburg Address. The John M. Kingery Memorial Day Essay Contest Awards was presented to winning Rye High School students. The program also included recognition of Rye Eagle Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Robin Latimer, president of the American Legion Auxiliary sang the National Anthem and God Bless America. She was accompanied by students from Milton School.

Additionally, Commander de Barros and Finance Officer Gene Collins honored the deceased veterans buried at the John Jay estate in afternoon ceremonies.

The text of Colonel Rathje’s speech follows:

Good morning, I am Army Colonel Ken Rathje, and I am honored to be here today. Thanks for having me. And a special thanks to the color guard, the boy scouts, of which my son Michael is a part of.
This day honors all those who died serving the United States Military. I know Rye has a strong history of serving our country and we are gathered here today to honor those names on the plaque of those who served and died. So let’s have a moment of silence to honor their memory and the ultimate sacrifice they made.

I know this day to be a day of reflection and healing after a war, and but yet our Global War on Terrorism rages on in places all over the world.
Since Viet Nam, we have had

Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)
Total U.S. Service members (Worldwide) 2,322,000 Deployed to Gulf 694,550 Battle Deaths 148

Global War on Terrorism (2001-Present)
Total U.S. Service members (Worldwide), 2,500,000 est., Deployed to South West Asia 1,200,000 Battle Deaths Iraq- over 4,500; Afghanistan – over 2,100, over 45,000 wounded.

But I remember meeting a WWII vet at a West Point Founder’s Day dinner. I noticed he was wearing a Bronze Star and so was I. He asked where I got mine and I said Baghdad, August 2007. So I asked him where he got his and he said Battle of the Buldge, December 1944. So I bought him a beer and he asked if I was on the front lines.

And I get asked that often.

But we are in a asymmetrical warfare. There are no front lines. Only staying within the wire of a Forward Operating Base or going out into hostile area, which I did almost daily in Iraq.

So I told him, I was on the front lines almost daily for a year. And then he bought me a beer.
You see, that’s the great equalizer, when you are on the front lines, or in hostile areas, as rough men and women, ready to visit violence on those who would harm us, so loved ones can sleep at night, you rely on your battle buddy and God. Always in a hypervigilance state to do your part, which at the basic instinct is being ready to kill.

And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, sometimes our buddies, or sons and daughters don’t make it.

So I wear my uniform today to honor them. And some day, I hope there is a plaque to honor the men and women from Rye who served in combat since Vietnam. I’ll be publishing a book on my experiences later this year, and I will donate money towards this.

But, today, I’d like to tell you a few stories, one from Iraq and one from Afghanistan.
I went to Iraq at 45 years old after 24 years of training. I was sent there to rebuild the Economy, which isn’t as hard in a Centralist Economy. And very similar to what I do for FEMA now as a civilian.
1st day in Baghdad our building was hit with Iranian made 122mm Katusha Rockets. Luckily, no one was hurt.

A week later, we arrived in Ramadi and went to a memorial service for 5 soldiers who died that week.
Several months later, I was back in Baghdad in the Green or safe zone, and we were hit by those Rockets again.

I’ll never forget the sound they make.

Anyway, I hear 2 rounds hit, and got up to see if everyone was ok. I saw a US Government civilian hurt and helped the reaction force guys patch him up and take him away. Then my buddy came out to see if I was ok and I said I was, why, there were only two and he said, Ken, there were 9. I didn’t even hear or feel the other 7 hit.

I thought to myself, this is a heck of a way to rebuild an economy.

The lesson I learned there was to thank God for letting me be in the land of the living, and to keep moving even when rounds are landing all around, and may not even be visible.

And it confirmed inside of me that when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go, until then, keep moving in complete faith that God has you in His hands. We used to call it the faith zone.

Now fast forward, 5 years later, and after a few years at the Pentagon, I was working with DIA and I had to go to replace a LTC in Kandahar, Afghanistan who was shell shocked and not very affective.
I had to replace him with another LTC, who arrived 2 days before me, and he had never been in combat before and was already shell shocked.

As I arrived, I tried to conduct a transition meeting and these two LTCs were just not communicating.
Well since I had now become learned at the Pentagon, I planned ahead and brought cigars.

So we took a break and went to a gazeebo outside to smoke.

As luck would have it, it started to rain, not uncommon in that part of Afg in January, but it started to thunder and lightning out, which was uncommon.

Well since we were next to the external wall of the Base, we thought we had better lock a magazine in our weapons and load a round in the chamber in case the enemy attacked.
And it really poured hard, and we smoked those cigars and then lit up another one and smoked that too.
And because of our heightened senses and potential fire fight, we had the best transition brief I had ever seen.

Well the enemy never attacked and the following day, the sun came out and I flew home. As I was sitting on the plane I thought what did I learn?
3 things: 1) When in a leadership position, lead 2) there is never a bad time to light up 3) the sun does really come out after a storm.

And that’s what I’d like to leave you all with today.

You may have lost someone at war, or in life, but the sun does come up again, and life goes on, and those especially who have died for our freedoms, gave us the right to go on living. So smoke a cigar if your old enough or hug a loved one when you can. I think we owe it them.

Thanks again for having me today! And God bless.