When I joined the United States Naval Reserve in June of 1972 I could never have imagined how that would change my life. I was a draftee who was looking for a better option than going in the Army and possibly going to Vietnam. I had just finished my first year of college and being drafted was at once frightening and also a disruption to my plans. I remember well the day of my enlistment. My grandmother accompanied me to the Naval Reserve Center in Jamestown, New York. My decision to become a Navy Hospital Corpsman could well have sent me to Vietnam but that was not my fate. Instead I served at a dispensary at Naval Air Station Albany GA and later at the Naval Submarine Medical Center New London which was actually in Groton CT.
I did well on active duty and in less than two years time I became a Petty Officer 3rd Class after having started out as an E-1. I learned a lot about labor and delivery and neonatal care in the newborn nursery. In New London I worked in the surgery clinic and assisted with minor surgery. Leaving active duty in early 1975 I returned to civilian life and eventually married and later finished college. I was never active in the American Legion and was very low key about my involvement with the military. Then a couple of years ago i got the chance to go to Rome and Assisi as part of the Franciscan Pilgrimages Program for veterans. On the pilgrimage I met other veterans. Some older, some younger but we all had one thing in common, we had served our country in time of war. After returning from the first pilgrimage I was determined to help other veterans have this pilgrimage experience. I contacted Francisco Morales who is the Director of Veterans Services at St. Bonaventure University and expressed my willingness to help. Frank who is a retired US Army combat veteran accepted my offer and gave me some swag to take home.
St. Bonaventure University’s Office of Veterans Services has teamed up with the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program on the Food4Vets program. I’ve been a volunteer in that program. The past couple of weeks Frank has invited me to have a free meal and today I couldn’t say no. I joined another veteran volunteer at one of the local restaurants involved with the program. We each received a fish fry with the trimmings. Shortly after we put our food in the car Frank arrived to present each of us with a “Military Aligned Service Award” from St. Bonaventure University. I was very moved by the experience. Frank had personally designed the medallions that include an image of St. Francis astride a horse as he returns from battle. In the background of the medallion you can see the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi as it appears and then the back of a contemporary soldier.