Not everyone who wears the uniform of the United States engages in battle, yet even those miltary men and men who have served and haven’t fought can feel the bond of duty to a nation and each other.
The bond is one that can stir them to action years later.
This is true of five local veterans, none of whom saw combat but who have taken it upon themselves to ensure those from town who are serving or who have served are not forgotten.
The five volunteers who make up the Tolland Veterans’ Recognition Commission are:
- Richard E. Tapp (Marine),
- Frederick W. Frey (Marine),
- Paul G. Query (Army),
- Michael A. Mita (Navy), and
- Lee Ann L. Fritsch (Navy).
They are urging residents to take the time during Sunday’s Memorial Day observance to stop at town hall and view the “Honor Roll Memorial.” It lists the names of local men and women who have served or are serving in the military.
The display also includes a “Wall of Honor” dedicated to those currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe.
The honor roll, which grows as more names are discovered, includes those who served in the French and Indian War, 1754 to 1763, which was actually a war between Great Britain and France in North America. It preceded the American Revolution that began with shots fired in Lexington, Mass., on April 19, 1775.
The roll also lists names of those who served during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Peace Time - Post War Service, the Vietnam War Era, the Middle East / Gulf War / Grenada.
The Wall of Honor displays information and photos of active duty service members submitted by their families.
The five-member Tolland Veterans’ Recognition Commission was formed in 2007 “to recognize, honor and memorialize those citizens of Tolland who have or are serving in the military.” Commissoners must be current or past members of the country’s armed forces.
Tapp, the group's current chairman who describes himself as a “Cold War Marine,” said the commission seeks to indentify those who have served at least 90 days of active duty, not including reserve training, and who were honorably discharged for inclusion in the honor roll.
The commission welcomes home newly returning Tolland residents who have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and other military “hot spots.”
The commission has made a effort to recognize the service of those residents returning home, especially from combat zones, with a brief ceremony. Thus far, they have held five for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beyond the Honor Roll Memorial and the Wall of Honor projects, the commission is preparing a web page that will be part of the state digital directory of veterans’ memorials being organized by the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs.
When complete, the directory will contain information about the memorials found in each of the state’s 169 cities and towns.
Tapp is a retired draftsman and someone who pays attention to detail, reasons why he noticed an obvious oversight on the veterans’ memorial on the town green. It was the same oversight committed by President Barack Obama, when in an unannounced stop at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul, Afghanistan, in early December he initially failed to credit the U.S. Coast Guard for its efforts in the Afghanistan war.
In Tolland, Tapp noticed that the Coast Guard insignia was missing from the memorial on Tolland Green that was installed in 1969 by the Ladies Auxiliary of Shenipsit Post No 241 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Working from the design of the insignias of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force that were initially carved into the gray stone of the memorial, Tapp drew up a copy of the Coast Guard insignia and working with an engraver had it added it to the memorial, albeit beneath the other four.
Tapp said another oversight he’s noticed is that the U.S. Maritime Service established under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. It is one of the five branches of military service that has its own academy, this one on Long Island Sound at Kings Point, N.Y. The Marine Corps is part of the U.S. Navy. During WWII, nearly 5,100 service members were killed or wounded in attacks by bombers, Japanese kamikaze, warships, submarines, mines and land-based artillery.
“Shouldn’t they be there, too?” Tapp asked in a way that signaled he knows the answer for himself.
“Veterans don’t get the recognition that should get,” said Frey, another Cold War Marine.
Take commission member Query, a retired dentist, for example.
While most have heard of Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army during World War II, author of the The Marshall Plan, a post-war economic recovery plan for Europe who also won a Nobel Prize, not as many will have heard of Query.
However, it’s likely Marshall never forgot what Query, an Army dental technician, did for him as he passed through Oahu, Hawaii, late in the war.
“His teeth were a wreck,” said Query who was called upon to make a set of dentures fast for the general who seldom in one place for more than 24 hours.
“I made his teeth,” Query said, grinning.