VFW Celebrates Three Decades of Growth

August 9, 2013

Steve Monieo with John and Judy Woodbury. Staff Photo by Lynne Ober

by Lynne Ober

Members of Pelham’s VFW gathered at the Hudson VFW Hall for a dinner, companionship and dancing last Saturday night in celebration of thirty years as a VFW Post.  Kate Blais, a Girl Scout working on her Gold Award, helped coordinate and organize the evening of fun.

VFW Commander Mark McCabe acted a Master of Ceremonies and genial host for the event.  In celebration of the post’s achievements over the decades, Kate Blais, who is interested in videography, interviewed and recorded interviews with members.  The DVD began with the first year this post was chartered, remembered all those who had commanded the post as the piece wandered through the three eventful decades.  Stories and memories were shared warmly and the audience was entranced by the production.  In some cases, members had already died and Kate gathered family photos and effectively pieced those into her production.  Charlie Dick, who had been a submariner when on active duty and later served as a Post Commander, told stories about serving in the Gulf of Siam and dealing with sea snakes.

John H. Hargreaves, who served two terms as Post Commander and for whom the post was named after his death in 2004, was warmly remembered with photos and accomplishments.

Frank Maglio, the 10th Post Commander, recalled a time when members were honored on the field at a Lowell Spinners game during the time that Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant was the Pitching Coach for the Lowell Spinners.

Gene Carter not only served as the 15th Post Commander, but told humorous stories about doing plumbing work in the current VFW Post, which was Pelham’s old town hall and said that his wife, Dot, had been drafted to be his plumber’s assistant during the work.

There was a section devoted to Charlie Mooskian, who during his four years as Post Commander, worked tirelessly to get the VFW its own home and was responsible for garnering support for the warrant article that allowed the VFW to take over Pelham’s old town hall, which it still uses today.

When the fascinating historical review completed, it was time to recognize two men who had served in Operation Blue Bat in Beirut, Lebanon in 1958.  Each was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (AFSM), which is awarded is awarded to U.S. Service member participants in major operations that encounter foreign armed resistance.  John Woodbury and Joe Norkiewicz both were honored for their participation in this operation.

With tensions in the Middle East rising in 1957, and it seemed as though Syria was about to fall to communism, President Eisenhower approved the deployment of USAF fighters from Germany to Adana.  Although this crisis quickly abated, the stage was set for the next upheaval the following year in Lebanon when Lebanese Moslems rebelled and rioted over fears that the delicate balance between Christianity and Islam in the Lebanese government was in peril.  Adding to the regional tension, leftist Iraqi officers assassinated their nation’s king and prime minister on 14 July 1958.  This prompted the President of Lebanon and the King of Jordan to request military assistance from the US and Operation Blue Bat began.  The purpose of Operation Blue Bat was to bolster the pro-Western Lebanese government of President Chamoun against internal opposition and threats from Syria and the United Arab Republic.  The plan was to occupy and secure the Beirut International Airport, a few miles south of the city, then to secure the port of Beirut and approaches to the city.  The operation involved approximately 14,000 men, including 8,509 Army personnel and 5,670 officers and men of the Marine Corps.  Approximately 70 ships staffed with 14,000 sailors provided support.  Deemed a success, the forces were withdrawn on October 25, 1958.  Fifty-five years later Woodbury and Norkiewicz were awarded their medals.

Dancing, conversation, laughter and fun filled the rest of the evening.