Thanking the Great Ones: White River Junction VA Honors WWII Veterans
George Courville, Navy Quarter Master 1st Class, Ret., shakes the hand of Danielle Ocker, the associate director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, after being presented with a hand-made quilt at the Courage of Valor event at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction on September 8, 2013. The VA center presented certificates and hand-made quilts to a group of WWII veterans to honor and thank them for their service. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Pete Toner, a retired Army veteran and member of New Hampshire Rolling Thunder Chapter 2, holds an American flag while welcoming vets at the Courage of Valor event at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction on September 8, 2013. The VA center presented Courage of Valor certificates and hand-made quilts to a group of WWII veterans to honor and thank them for their service. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — The color guard began the ceremony with more than 40 men and women lining a room at the White River Junction VA, most wearing leather vests and all holding large American flags.
It was a fitting display of patriotism for the occasion: a “Courage of Valor” ceremony held to honor World War II veterans who live in the Twin States. Two dozen veterans were honored Sunday, and all received quilts courtesy of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Deborah Amdur, the director of the medical center, said it was the first time the White River Junction hospital has had such a formal ceremony for veterans of the seven-decade-old war.
“The heroes among us today have lived such rich lives and contributed so much to the American landscape that we call home,” Amdur said, shortly before inviting Squad Leader Kenneth Barrett to the front of the room to receive a quilt, flowers and a certificate.
Barrett received his accolades, shook hands down a row of hospital administrators and staff and waved toward members of the color guard before returning to his seat.
“Thank you boys,” he said.
Including the color guard, which was made up of members of the Patriot Guard Riders, Combat Vets of America and Rolling Thunder, approximately 150 people filled out much of the seminar room at the hospital. In front of the podium, the quilts sat ready. Early in the ceremony, the Rev. Susan Gregory-Davis took to the lectern.
“Their courage, their valor and their strength of spirit have triumphed through these many years,”she said of the veterans.
When the honorees from the so-called “greatest generation” were individually accepting their quilts, Pfc. James Carr, of Bellows Falls, Vt., was called. He approached the podium, meeting Amdur first.
“You must be one of the people who joined when they were 14,” she said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
Carr is spry — walking two to three miles a day — and looks young for the WWII demographic but he is actually 87 years old.
“To me, it’s an honor,” Carr said after the ceremony. “We’re getting to be —”
“a dying breed,” Gloria Carr, his wife, chimed in.
“A dying breed,” he echoed, before modifying it to “rare persons.”
Gloria Carr knows WWII intimately as well, as all four of her brothers were enlisted during its years, and two of them were in active duty.
“I think it’s a great honor,” she said of the event.
Besides individual honors, the ceremony also provided a sense of community among the veterans. Near its end, Petty Officer 1st Class Ralph Dodge was called to the front. As he headed back to his seat, he saw Barrett. The two were not in the same outfit overseas but they did know each other decades ago.
“Hello, Ralph,” Barrett said. “How are you?”
Amdur and others up front expressed surprise that the two actually knew each other so long ago.
“It’s been a great many years,” Dodge said.
Jon Wolper can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3242.
A photo caption associated with this article has been amended to correct an earlier error. Danielle Ocker, the associate director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, was shown shaking the hand of a Navy veteran in a ceremony honoring a group of World War II veterans. The caption named the wrong person.