Currently viewing the category: "Veterans Column"

by Jim Houck, Jr.

Francis X. Elder Gets a New Head Stone

Roger Melton, president of the Board of Directors Francis X. Elder American Legion Post 121 Emmitsburg, said that while he was at the 2014 Veterans Day volley by our American Legion and VFW combined Color Guard, over the grave of Francis X. Elder, he noticed that the scrolling and letters on the headstone marking the grave were barely legible. Francis X. Elder, for those that don’t know, was the first soldier from World War I from Emmitsburg to be killed in action.

Melton was very concerned, because Francis X. Elder was a hero and the namesake of our post, so he decided that this was something that needed to be brought up and discussed by members at our regular meeting (held the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.) to discuss what needs to be done. Meeting night, Roger brought it to the attention of the membership and everyone was in agreement that the headstone needed to be replaced. Funds were appropriated for the project and it was put out for bid. Jeff Zumbrun, the owner of  Zumbrun’s Funeral Home, won the bid.

Roger called me and asked if I would like to do a story on the replacement and what was happening to the original headstone and I said I certainly would like that. I, after all, had done a few stories on Francis X. Elder and even had one of them go national on the National Sons of AMVETS Website and National Sons of AMVETS Newsletter. I have a collection of newspaper articles given to me by Ralph Ireland from a collection his mother left when she passed away. I am very interested in anything about Francis X. Elder.  I followed the replacement from the beginning and I even took several photos of the entire replacement which will follow this article.

I met Jeff Zumbrun and his son Jim on the day they came to start the replacement project. They are both gentlemen who work very hard at what they do and are not afraid of hard work, and believe me what they do is hard work. They do not use machines to move these monuments around, just manual labor and levers, the old fashioned ways. Jeff’s son Jim, is taking classes to become an undertaker and said that he is doing this to help his dad and plans on continuing the family business.

I interviewed Jeff after all was completed and he said, “My name is Jeff Zumbrun and I have a funeral home in Eldersburg, Carroll County Maryland and I am here with my son, Jim, who is hopefully going to take up the business. We got into the monument business when we first started to plan for the funeral home because it was much easier to get started. We got this connection in Emmitsburg when we bid on the headstone replacement when Roger Melton called and said we won the bid. I initially put in the bid because my brother was killed in Vietnam and I somehow felt it would be sort of a tribute to him by doing this.”

Jeff said that next year will be their twentieth anniversary of starting the business. He said they started their business from scratch and that it wasn’t an old guy that retired or anything like that. They just decided to go into business for themselves and he said by the Grace of God and community support they have been able to continue the business for going on twenty years.

The original headstone has been placed beside the World War II Memorial in front of the Francis X. Elder American Legion Post and looks very nice with the Korean War and Vietnam War Monuments and the Cannon.

God Bless America, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.


Pictured are Jeff Zumbrun and his son, Jim.

VFW Building- Veterans COLUMN2You are eligible to be a member of any VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Men’s Auxiliary if you are a man over the age of sixteen, a citizen of the United States, and are a husband, widower, father, son, grandson, brother, foster brother, step brother, foster son, or step son of persons who were or are eligible for membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. The very first thing you should know—and I will attest to—is that these organizations are not formed just for a cheap drinking establishment; we are comrades in aiding our parent organization, the VFW, our Veterans and our community families. We have standing committees for membership, relief, publicity, youth activities, Americanism, community activities, and safety. We have fundraising functions and urge everyone to volunteer their time and expertise to make the events enjoyable, as well as profitable. We have as our objective to promote Americanism by means of education in patriotism and constructive service to local communities.

The VFW has a National Home for Veterans Children, and they are celebrating their 90th year this year. The National Home’s community is open to active duty military personnel, Veterans, and—recognizing that the effects of war can last for generation—descendants of members of the VFW and its auxiliaries. The families can be one or both parents with one or more children. Families are welcomed to their small community, where they can live for up to four years. They work to identify what they need and want to accomplish, during which time they are provided with housing, education, day care, basic needs, recreation, case management, and a military and family helpline. We urge everyone to get involved by telling others about it and by donating to their fund or holding a fundraiser for them.

VFW Men’s Auxiliary 6658 President Leo Hobbs does a great job of leading. Leo is regularly on top of things; when we have a fundraising feed, he keeps things well organized and moving. We have a meeting once a month on the first Wednesday. From October through April, we hold our meetings at the Post, located on the square in Emmitsburg; from May through September, we hold our meetings at VFW Park, located off Harney Road (off of Rt. 140, east of Emmitsburg). We usually arrive at either site around 6:15 p.m. for the meal we have before our meeting, so we can start the meeting at 7:00 p.m. We have a few members who have been in the military but did not qualify as regular members because of the times and places served when they were in, and they are very welcome as our comrades. Our treasurer, Steve Wojciechowski (he says pronounce it “where’s your house key”), is one with a military history, and I would like to interview him some time. He was a Sgt. Major, and I’m sure he has led an interesting life for me to write about. One of our member’s fathers was once Post Commander, Luman Norris’s son, Luman and he is one of our trustees. Leo’s son, Josh, is our secretary or adjutant and takes a great interest in doing his job; he is also at most of our functions and does a great job on the floor keeping our patrons happy. Mark Zurgable is our chaplain and is also an asset when it comes to our functions; he will do just about anything that is asked of him. Mark’s dad was one of the members of the VFW who helped keep things together with the Post. I am senior vice president and truly enjoy my position and all of the functions I am privileged to attend and help out with. My dad was also a member of the VFW and was in WWII. Dick Fleagle is also a trustee and a great help at our functions. Lewis Smith is also an asset when it comes to functions for fundraising. The people I have mentioned so far as Men’s Auxiliary members have over 500 years of age between them, with me included, and it’s about time for some younger blood to come in and get involved. We have a new incentive for joining our organization—besides the obvious one of giving you a sense of satisfaction in helping Veterans, kids, and your community—we are going to begin in January to give a PUFL (a paid-up-for-life membership) to one lucky winner each January. Stop in and get an application with all of the details on how you can qualify for the PUFL; it is really quite easy.

We have our annual Shrimp and Chicken Feed coming up at the Post on November 7, 2015, and it would be a great opportunity for you to see everyone in action and better yet come in and fill out an application (available at the bar.) Ee have a meeting coming up November 4, and we can vote you in just in time to give us a hand at the feed. I would sure like to see you there and I’m sure the rest of the members will feel the same way. November 14 we are having a Turkey and Ham Give-A-Way at Post 6658 and all you have to do is show up at 6:00-10:00 p.m. and every half hour a number will be drawn and a turkey or ham will be given away and the nice thing about it is, it doesn’t cost you anything because you will be given a ticket at the door when you arrive absolutely free. There will also be light refreshment for everyone to eat free of charge. It is our way of saying thank you for attending our feeds throughout the year. We also raffle off meat trays and oysters and, maybe, bacon. We will be holding another identical event on December 12th so mark your calendars. We are all looking forward to seeing you at the upcoming events starting on November 7. A big thank you in advance to all of you.

I look forward to seeing everyone out trick or treating on October 31 in Emmitsburg and seeing you in the parade. I have been asked to be the official Halloween photographer and plan on taking a ton of pictures of you to put in The Catoctin Banner. Don’t forget to give me your name— how else are we going to recognize you?

God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.

Fred Shinbur, Coordinator of the Maryland Public Television (MPT) Vietnam Project, visited the AMVETS Post 7 in Thurmont during a Wing Feed fundraiser on October 17, 2015. Shinbur was driving in style in a green KIA decorated with information about the project he’s promoting. He was on a trek throughout Maryland to spread the word about the project which honors Vietnam Veterans and includes a three-hour documentary film told by and about Maryland’s Vietnam-era Veterans, a weekend event to honor them, a motorcycle honor ride for them, a state-wide traveling exhibit, and an educators guide for Vietnam study in high school curriculum and middle school oral history project.

Vietnam Vets fought in that war because their country asked them to. They went to a far away, unforgiving, land where they endured unspeakable conditions. Many of them never came home.

Fred Shinbur is leading the way towards a long-overdue thank you to those who worked and fought in an unpopular war. To learn more about the initiative, please contact Fred Shinbur at

Courtesy Photo


Pictured from left are Tom Joy, past Post 7 Commander; Fred Shinbur, MPT Project Coordinator; and Ed Superczynski, Post 7 Commander. Mary Davis, Post 7 Auxilary member, is in the car.

James Rada, Jr.

It is estimated that more than 1,100 World War II Veterans die each day. The United States and Frederick County is quickly losing its “greatest generation.”

The Frederick County Veterans History Project is working to make sure those important histories are not lost. Working with the Library of Congress, these county volunteers have set out to record interviews on DVD with every Veteran they can find in the county. Their primary focus is WWII Veterans, but they are also interviewing any Veteran who is willing to share his or her story.

“We interview any Veteran,” said Priscilla Rall, director of the Frederick County Veterans History Project. “It doesn’t matter whether they were stateside, in the Cold War, anywhere.”

The group of volunteers was founded in April 2003 and, at this time, has interviewed more than three hundred twenty-five of Frederick County’s Veterans. Members currently meet bi-monthly in Rall’s Rocky Ridge home.

While there are committees with other organizations, such as the DAR, that also conduct interviews, Rall said, “To my knowledge, we are the only organization formed in the country just to do Veterans History Project interviews.”

The National Veterans History Project was formed in 2000 as part of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. The goal of the project is to collect, preserve, and make accessible as many personal accounts from Veterans as possible so that their first-hand knowledge is available to future generations.

Rall, who has conducted more than one hundred interviews, said that her most-interesting interview was when she sat down with Howard Baugh, who flew one hundred thirty-five missions with the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military pilots in the armed forces.

“The white corps had a limit on the number of missions they would fly before they went home,” Rall said. “The Tuskegee Airmen didn’t have a limit and so they flew a lot of missions.”

Rall said that she was also very impressed with the Veterans who fought in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

The Frederick County group is always looking for the names of Veterans who are willing to share their stories. A volunteer will schedule a time to sit down with the Veteran and record the interview on a DVD. Copies of the interview are then sent to the Library of Congress’ Veteran History Project, the Maryland Room in the C. Burr Artz Library, and to the Veteran who granted the interview. A copy is also kept with the group.

“These Veterans have opened their hearts to us, usually painfully,” Rall said. “We should continue to give them our thanks and gratitude.”

The Frederick County Veterans History Project is always seeking volunteers to help conduct interviews, as well as the names of Veterans who would be willing to share their stories.

To help out, call Rall at 301-271-2868 or e-mail her at

Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Wayne Rice U.S. Army Retired

Born to Mary and Garnett Rice on April 26, 1951, at home in Mountaindale, Maryland, was a boy they named Bruce Wayne. Bruce was given the name of the super hero, Batman, and later in life, even though he wasn’t Batman, he was a super hero in another way. Joseph Rice was Bruce’s younger brother, and his middle brother was Dwight Rice. In 1982, while Bruce was in the Army, Dwight was killed in an automobile accident at the age of twenty-five. Bruce has another brother, Daniel Rice, and a half-brother, Bernie Kefauffer.

Bruce went to Yellow Springs Elementary School in Yellow Springs, Maryland. He then went to West Frederick Middle Junior High School. In 1967, Governor Thomas Johnson High School opened and Bruce went there for tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. Bruce graduated from Governor Thomas Johnson High School in 1969, where he took general courses. He played baseball on the varsity team and was active in the high school band, where he played trumpet.

Bruce was on a work study program in the twelfth grade, so he attended school in the morning for half day and the other half school day he worked for Price Electric Co., located on the corner of Church and 2nd Street in Frederick, Maryland. He worked there as a tool dye maker machinist from 1968 until after he graduated. Bruce lived on 2nd Street with his first wife and they had two children: Melissa Rice and Bruce Jr. Bruce worked at Price Electric for a while and then he got a job selling life insurance for Home Mutual Life Insurance Company. He didn’t like selling insurance, because he wasn’t making a lot of money at it, plus there was a lot of travel involved. Bruce went back to work for Price Electric again until he got a job with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department as a corrections officer. He stayed there for six months or so when he decided he wanted to join a branch of the United States military.

In 1975, Bruce enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of twenty-four. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to handle rigorous basic training at that age. When he arrived there, he said to himself, “I really don’t think this is what I want to do.” But he was already there, and there really wasn’t anything he could do about it. Many times he thought, “I really have to get out of here.” But he hung in there and, before he knew it, he started to like it. All the young boys there—around eighteen and nineteen years of age—started to call Bruce “Pops.” It made him feel good, because he took the nickname as meaning that he was going to take care of them and look after them. And he did take care of them by talking to them when they started to say “I can’t do this”; he would say to them, “Hey, if I can do this, I know you can, too.” It got to the point that even the drill sergeants were calling him Pops, because they didn’t think Bruce could take it. Bruce took his basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in July 1975; he said that it was so hot there, and going through all that training, he just didn’t know if he could take it. But he hung in there. Bruce made it through his basic training, and while everyone was out on the parade field, they were informed that some of them would get to go home for a thirty-day leave. Bruce was sure he would be one of them. They were told that if their name was called, they wouldn’t be going home. Sure enough, they called Bruce’s name. Bruce didn’t get a break, because he left Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for Fort Polk in Louisiana, where it was even hotter. Snakes were hanging from trees, and they called it “Little Vietnam”; it was rough, but he put in his time there for the following two months. Bruce wanted to go in as Military Police (MP), but they didn’t have any slots for MPs, so they placed him in the infantry. He was informed that later on down the road if he wanted to become an MP, they would see what they could do for him. They told Bruce where he was going for basic, but they didn’t know where he was going for infantry training. All they told him was that he was going to be in a beautiful, sunny place. He was sent to Fort Hood in Texas and, boy, was it hot down there. When he got there, he got settled and was given his assignment. He was put in Company A. Bruce enjoyed it and said that infantry wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.

At that time, he didn’t see his family very often. Bruce was married to his second wife, and he had a step-son, Scott Rice. They lived on post when his second wife became pregnant; their second son was born at Darnell Hospital at Fort Hood in Texas, named Charles (Chuck) Rice. Bruce and his family lived on base for three-and-a-half years. While there, Bruce became acting corporal. He came up through the ranks as private, and then private 1st class; his sergeant liked what he was doing and wanted Bruce to be a squad leader, so he made him acting corporal. Bruce was made squad leader and was put in charge of six soldiers. The team worked as toe gunners; they worked well together and took care of each other. If 1st Sergeant said there was going to be an inspection to check vehicles and weapons, Bruce would put the team to work. He told them if they went off he would stand up for them. They would leave and the 1st Sergeant would come in for inspection and ask where his people were. Bruce would tell him that he gave them off, and the 1st Sergeant would say he better be straight. Bruce would tell him he was ready for inspection on the tools and equipment, and, after the inspection, Bruce’s team would come out first every time. Bruce said he took care of his boys and they took care of him.

After a while, Bruce got promoted to corporal. As soon as he was promoted, his Company commander and his 1st Sergeant wanted to make him an acting sergeant, so they made him an acting sergeant E-5; he never got to wear his corporal stripes, so they pinned on acting E-5  stripes—he was still doing the same work he was doing as corporal. As time went on, they wanted someone to take over handling the weapons, so they sent Bruce to school to be an armorer. He came out with flying colors as an armorer, and he took over being the armorer for the company. Bruce maintained and repaired weapons until he left the Company. While Bruce was at Fort Hood, he did spend a six-month rotation in Europe as a standby unit in Wildflecken, Germany. It was like being deserted up on a hill; they did a lot of good training in the snow. He was then rotated back to Fort Hood, Texas. Bruce’s enlistment was getting ready to come up, and he had a four-year enlistment at the time. They asked him to reenlist. Bruce told them he would reenlist under one condition: they would send him to Military Police School to become an MP. They came back and told him they couldn’t do it. So, Bruce told them he was going to get out—that was six months prior to his ETS date. About three months before his ETS date, they called him up and said that they wanted him to reenlist. Bruce restated his original condition. They sent him to MP school, but said they couldn’t get him in because there were no slots open for an E-5. About a month later, they called Bruce and said they found a slot for him for MP school and asked if he wanted it. Bruce told them he would take it, and he reenlisted for three more years. He finally got his orders to report to MP training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he completed MP training. Following his training, they sent him to Fort Benning, Georgia. Bruce was then assigned to the 192nd infantry brigade, which was an MP Unit. Their jobs were to go in the field and direct tanks and anti-personnel carriers through the mountains; when they got back, they did military police work on the roads. After sixteen months, they sent him to Stuttgart, Germany, to Detachment A 42nd Military Police; the main headquarters was in Frankfurt, which did customs work. They checked household goods or baggage that people were leaving Germany with and going back to the states. Bruce remembers it being a very interesting job, because you didn’t have a whole lot to do and you would go in and get your assignments for the day, checking three or four pack outs that people were leaving to go back to the states with, and then you would go to a warehouse where you would store their equipment or their baggage while they were waiting to go back to the states. Bruce would make sure it was tagged to show there was no illegal contraband going from Germany back to the states. While Bruce was there, they decided they would send two people to another site, so he decided he would take an E-4 with him to Gerkenstatd, Germany, and take care of all the people going back to the states; it kept the two of them busy, making the eight-hour shift go fast. Bruce’s time was just about up; he was having some personal problems back in the states, so he decided it was time to go back home and get out of the Army. Bruce left Germany for the United States, and was on his way to McGuire Air Force Base to process out. While there being processed, they asked if he would consider staying in as a reservist. Bruce thought long and hard about it and decided he would. He ETS’ed out of active duty and went back home. He then got a call to report to 690 Supply Company in Frederick, Maryland. Bruce reported to 690 Supply Company as an E-5; he was there about a year when they promoted him to E-6 Staff Sergeant in 2002. Then he was sent to a supply company in Cumberland, Maryland; he was sent there because where he was, they did not have a slot for E-7, and Bruce was up for E-7 Sergeant 1st Class. Bruce made Sergeant 1st Class at the 690 Supply Company, and he was transferred to the 256th Supply Company in Cumberland. When he arrived there, Bruce was informed that the 256th Supply Company was deactivating, so there wasn’t going to be a 256th Supply Company. He stayed at the 256th Supply Company until they did deactivate. Then they sent him to the 372nd Supply Company. A sergeant that Bruce knew since he was a kid told Bruce he would be more than glad to take him in his unit. He stayed with 372nd MP Company as Platoon Sergeant for one of the platoons.

They then decided they wanted someone to take over as 1st Sergeant at Fort Meade in Maryland. They had a detachment down there, so they asked Bruce if he would be an active 1st Sergeant to the detachment unit at the 376th in Fort Meade. He decided to take it and thought it wasn’t too bad there. However, it turned out that he was wrong since he would have to take his entire detachment to Cumberland. This was a fiasco, because they would call Bruce at home in Thurmont, and he would have to go to Fort Meade, load everything up, and then drive to Cumberland. Just as they get there, they would be told it was an alert and have to turn around and head straight back to Fort Meade.

Bruce got married to his present wife, Lisa, in 1986; they have three children: the oldest, Heather; Taylor; and the youngest, Matthew. They all live in Thurmont. Bruce was in the military while they were all growing up. He decided that with the military becoming political, he couldn’t even have ammo to go to the shooting range to practice; he had enough and it was time to get out. Bruce decided to retire with almost twenty-four years in—but twenty good years. Some of the years didn’t count, because he got out and went back in as a reservist. Bruce earned the good conduct medal, ribbons for taking non-commissioned officer courses, armor school, Overseas Award ribbon, ribbons for his tours in Europe, and an Expert Rifleman award.

In a way, Bruce is sorry he left the Army, because of the camaraderie he felt with the men. But when he got out, he joined the AMVETS Post 7 in Thurmont. He feels he has a lot of camaraderie there, like he had with his Army buddies. Bruce joined the AMVETS in 2002, and it is the only Veterans organization to which he belongs. Bruce is very proud to be in the Post 7 Honor Guard, and he tries to participate in all the things involving the Honor Guard. The Honor Guard of Post 7 is proud of all the awards they have been presented over the years, and is now the official Color Guard and Honor Guard of The Department of Maryland AMVETS.

Bruce is retired now, but when he retired from the Army, he went to work with a company called Pan Engineering (making printed Circuit Boards). He then got a job with the Postal Service at the post office in Frederick, Maryland. While Bruce was working at the Frederick Post Office, he met his present wife and said it was love at first sight. Bruce has seven children and ten grandchildren. He then went to work at the Hagerstown Post Office, and was Postmaster of Rocky Ridge Post Office for two years where he retired.

Bruce is a very interesting person and a pleasure to interview. When you see him, please shake his hand and thank him for all the service he gave to the greatest country in the world.

God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.


A Son Becomes a Veteran


A Father Becomes A Son

by Jim Houck, Jr.

Richard Lee Fleagle (Rick) was born to Dick and Joyce Fleagle on March 3, 1960. Rick graduated from Catoctin High School in 1978. He liked to have fun and was considered a little on the wild side, while in school and out. In 1980, he enlisted in the U.S. military.

Rick went to Lackland Air Force Base for training. He had to sign up for at least 6 years in order to be trained in E.O.D. (explosive ordinance disposal) and that was what he did. Rick was sent to Charleston, South Carolina for six years and then to England for four years. He was almost assigned to “Desert Storm” but he had signed up to be an instructor and once he had done that, they didn’t want to reassign him to a hot zone because instructors are hard to get, a lot is invested in them.

Rick had aced every test that was given him. One day his C.O. told him to get his gear together because he was going to be shipped out to Operation Desert Storm. So, he went home and prepared to leave. In the meantime, a man that was on vacation who was originally supposed to go to Desert Storm returned and was sent instead of Rick. Rick got to stay put when he returned from home. When his tour in England ended, Rick was sent back to the U.S. to Indian Head, Maryland. There he stayed for nine years. He instructed E.O.D. and he loved it. Rick was sent to Kendall Air Force Base in Panama, Florida for his last two years of service because the Indian Head Base was closed down. He really liked it at Kendall when he got there. Rick did have to go to Granada when they went in to rescue the kids there. He said it was the first time and, he hoped, the last time that he was being shot at. It was the only time in his entire military career he was ever shot at.

Rick retired after twenty two years in the Air Force and went to work at a car dealership making brake shoes. It was a job he didn’t like because of working in asbestos. He was happy when he got a call from Huntsville, Alabama asking him if he would be interested in a job as instructor in E.O.D. He said he would, but wondered if they wanted to interview him. They said that normally they would, but they talked with his formal superiors who held him in very high regards. If he would like the job, he was to just show up.

Rick showed up and they put him on the books. He bought a 16 acre piece of land up there and moved his family to Alabama. Rick just loved the job and the area, but the military soon closed that base down also. He had a choice of getting out the contract or taking a job in Florida, so he moved back to Florida. Rick didn’t sell his home in Alabama when he went to the job in Florida. He bought a three bedroom trailer down there and hoped he would eventually get another job and move back to to his home in Alabama. He was working at Eglin Air Force Base in the panhandle of Florida close to Pensacola. Rick stayed at that location for three or four years and when the job ended he went back to Huntsville. His wife told him she thought he had served enough time with the military and suggested he stay at home while she worked because she had a good job. She had just gone full time, so with the salary she made and his pension, they could live comfortably. She suggested he take a break and he did. He has been ever since. Rick does take on some odd jobs now and then just for something to do.

I would now like to tell you a little bit about Rick’s father, a man that is very proud of his son.

VETERANS-column---Dick-FleaRichard W. Fleagle (Dick) was five days old when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, and Dick jokingly says he saw the planes go over but he couldn’t talk yet to warn anyone. On December 2, 1941 George Albert and Amelia Fleagle had a bouncing baby boy at their home and they named him Richard Warren. Dick’s parents raised him in Thurmont and sent him and his two sisters, Shirley and Georgette, to the Thurmont school system where he played sports, participated in a lot of school plays, and sang in the school glee club. He remembers one play when he played a monkey and dressed in a monkey suit. He would sit on people’s laps and jump around and he could be silly because no one knew who he was. Dick said he started getting interested in girls when he was a junior in high school and chased a variety of them. He took one of them to the prom and stayed out all night with her. He said he won a door prize at the prom and when he opened the  package it was a large bottle of hair tonic. Dick thought it was to slick his hair down, but when he used it, his hair fell out and he was bald by age twenty-two. So, now we know the rest of that story.

Dick graduated from Thurmont High School in 1959 and he also got married in 1959 to Miss Joyce Humerick. They just celebrated being married for fifty-five years. Dick was working for Biser’s Painting at the time and Joyce was pregnant. When she told Dick it was time to go to hospital, he called his boss and told him he might not be to work in the morning. His boss said they were calling for snow that night and to be careful. They got to the hospital and around ten o’clock, looked out the window around eleven o’clock and there were about four inches of snow on the ground, and it was still coming down. The nurses told Dick they couldn’t believe he was so calm because Joyce was in there getting ready to have a baby. He told them he knew that and he was just tickled to death. The nurse asked if he was nervous or anything, and Dick asked her if he needed to be nervous. When  she said no, not really, Dick said well then leave me alone then.

Finally, at two twenty two in the morning, baby Richard L. arrived. The nurse said Joyce would be out of it for the rest of the night and the baby was fine and everything was fine so he had better try to make it home. Dick made it home and the next morning he went to work in about eight inches of snow. Back then, if you could make it to work, you went to work. When Dick got to the paint shop, his boss asked him how everything went and he told his boss it went well and he explained everything to him. His boss said they needed to go to Frederick to make sure the paint crew got home before the blizzard became any worse.

They had problems going to Frederick because the main road was closed, so they tried to take the back road and had to be towed out of a ditch by a farmer. When they got to Frederick, they had to spend the night at his boss’s Aunt’s house. Dick ended up being stranded in Frederick while Joyce was at the Gettysburg Hospital with Rick.

Dick called Joyce and explained to her what happened and she was understanding. Dick was able to get to Gettysburg the next day.

Their daughter Susie came along in January 1962 with less excitement. Dick and Joyce have six grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren, and they just love them to pieces. Dick was with Bisers Painting full-time for three years and then went to work at Thurmont Shoe Factory full-time and Bisers part-time for three years. Dick went to work for Lehiegh Corp. in Woodsboro when he left Thurmont Shoe Co. and stayed for forty-three years until he retired.

Dick spent a lot of time traveling  to visit with his son. He and Joyce went to visit him while he was in England and numerous times while he was stationed at various bases, especially while he was in Alabama and Florida. Dick is just bursting with pride for his son, Rick, and because of Rick, he is able to be a member at various veteran organizations. Dick loves belonging to, and helping in all aspects of the Sons of AMVETS. He is especially proud that he was asked to belong to AMVETS Post 7 Honor Guard. Dick is Chaplain for the Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS, 1st Vice Commander of Sons of AMVETS Squadron 7 Thurmont, Chaplain for Sons of the American Legion Squadron 121 Emmitsburg, and Men’s Auxiliary VFW Post 6658 Emmitsburg.

God Bless the United States of America, God Bless Our Veterans, and God Bless You.

North Point Center

The New Beginning for Homeless Veterans

and a Challenging Volunteer Project for Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS and their Squadrons

by Jim Houck, Jr.

The sad truth about many Veterans is that when they return home from active duty, some of them have problems adjusting back to civilian life, sometimes turning to either alcohol or drugs. Then it only becomes a matter of time before they become homeless and take to living on the streets of our cities.

A census was taken in January 2011 that showed that on any single night in the United States of America over 67,000 homeless Veterans are on the streets. I would venture a guess that the numbers have increased considerably with today’s changes in our country.

I am so happy to be writing about a nonprofit organization that specializes in transitional housing just for rehabilitating homeless Veterans (right now they are only accepting Veterans in the Hagerstown and Washington County area), helping them to return to society clean and drug-free and to stand on their own with a job and a home. No Veteran with a dishonorable discharge from the military is accepted. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides the discharge information for the program. The homeless Veterans—with priority given to female Veterans—are allowed to stay in the program for up to two years; they are then aided in finding a job and housing to live on their own.

The Veterans—on the day they are ready to make the transition to their new residence—are assisted by volunteers from the Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS and their Squadron members. The volunteers work very hard gathering complete furnishings for the new home of the Veteran, arriving on moving day to transport and help set up the furnishings in the Veteran’s new home.

The facility that the Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS (American Veterans) is so excited about is North Point Veterans Home, which is located in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“It is a transitional living house that provides employment training and helps Veterans work toward finding a permanent place to reside. Jennifer Drake is the Program Supervisor and is the person that keeps us informed of what is needed,” said Commander Ed Stely of the Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS. He is committed to this program and is in constant contact with all who are involved.

Items are collected to kick-start their independent living in a new home: kitchen furniture, living room furniture, bedroom furniture, pillows, bed sheets and comforter, hangers, floor lamp, surge protector, extension cords, towels, kitchen towels, wash cloths, shower curtain with rings, microwave, knife set, cutting board, cups and glasses, silverware, plastic wrap, foil, coffee maker, pot holders, cleaning supplies, string mop and bucket with ringer, dish scrub brush, space heater, and plates.

The budget for this venture is funded solely by grants and donations. The staff is paid by Veterans Affairs, and the jobs training is funded by the U.S. Labor Department. These programs are an asset to the community and to the Veterans, and I cannot see it other than a win-win situation all the way around. This is what being an American really means, and I am proud to be a part of something this great.

I know that you would like to help put some homeless Veterans back into mainstream America. If you can contribute some furniture or appliances or any necessities needed in running a household, please contact Ed Stely at 301-524-9333 or Jim Payne at 301-271-3371 and leave a message; they will answer you promptly.

God Bless the United States of America, God Bless our American Veterans, and God Bless You.

Thurmont American Legion 


Ed Gravatt, Commander

It is February already, and the crocuses are blooming; spring is almost here.

Last month, we had an exciting event: the band Poverty Ridge played here for a dance. Everyone raved about how good they were; the exciting thing was that they donated a Fender Guitar that was raffled off for our Scholarship Fund.  Thanks to the band, we were able to raise $180.00, which will go to a good cause. Thank you, Poverty Ridge.

There will be a Sweethearts Dance on Valentine’s Day, February 14. The Band Wylde Fire will be playing from 8:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m. at the Legion. The cost is $5.00 at the door (no tickets), and this is open to everyone. So grab your sweetheart or someone else’s, and come on out and have some fun. At all of our dances, the proceeds go towards our Scholarship Fund.

We will be having our Sunday Movie on February 15; the movie this month is How To Train Your Dragon 2. Movies will be shown on the third Sunday, from 1:00-3:00 p.m.  There is no charge and movies are open to anyone who wants to come. Light refreshments will be served. Upcoming: Frozen on March 15.

Some people aren’t aware that we have Bingo every Thursday, from 7:00-9:00 p.m.  This is a fun time; the kitchen is open and there are a couple of prizes.

Our kitchen is open on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, and Sunday afternoons. We have entertainment every Friday night, from 8:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m., in our party room. We usually have either a DJ or Karaoke. This month, we have Big Al on February 6; Ralph Gann on February 13; DJ Jimmy James on February 20; and DJ Jake on February 27.

On Wednesdays, we have Corn Hole Tournaments, upstairs.  The bar is open and so are the doors to anyone who would like to play.

by James Rada, Jr.

— 1938 —

The End of a Generation in Thurmont

When Thomas H. Shelton died on February 19, 1938, Frederick County lost its last Veteran of the Civil War, seventy-three years after the war ended.

Shelton died at the home of his daughter-in-law, Stella Shelton, who lived near Rocky Ridge. The ninety-seven-year-old had been healthy at the start of the month, but then his health had quickly turned, and he had been sick for about a week prior to his death.

As a young man of eighteen, Shelton had served in Company I of the 1st Maryland Regiment. He had missed fighting at the Battle of Antietam in 1862, because he had been taken as a prisoner of war at Harpers Ferry the day before.

Eventually he was paroled, and he returned to his company and was with them when they fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. His company did not fight in the other nearby battle at Monocacy in 1864.

When the war ended and his regiment was discharged, Shelton re-enlisted with the 13th Regiment.

Shelton was buried with full military honors in the Garfield Mt. Bethel United Methodist Cemetery. He had outlived all of his children, but he was survived by nine grandchildren, twenty-seven great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.

Frederick County had lost its last two Civil War Veterans within four months of each other.

Although Shelton hadn’t been a native Frederick Countian, Henry Clay Fleagle of Thurmont had been. He had been the second-to-last Civil War Veteran in the county, and the last one who had lived his life here.

Fleagle died in November 1937 at age ninety-four. He was a first-generation American whose parents had been born in Holland.

He had been born in Unionville and served in the Civil War under Capt. Walter Saunders.

“He served for nearly the entire four-year duration of the war, charging with the line of blue at Gettysburg,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The end had been a relief for Fleagle. The Frederick News reported that he had been only partially conscious the week before his death at the home of his son, George Fleagle.

Henry’s wife, Lillie Creager, had died two years earlier. He was survived by one daughter, who was married to Wilbur Freeze, four sons, nineteen grandchildren, and twenty great-grandchildren.

Henry was also the last member of the Jason Damuth Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Thurmont.

It would still be nearly two decades before the last Civil War Veteran died. The final Veterans of the Confederate States armed forces died in the 1950s. A number of men claimed to be last remaining Confederate Veteran. These men died throughout the 1950s. Many of their claims were debunked as more information about their births was uncovered. The largest problem in verifying their claims was that many Confederate records had been destroyed or lost, because the Confederate government had no official archive system.

Pleasant Crump of Alabama died at the end of 1951 at the age of 104. He was the oldest of the group of Confederate Veterans who had a verified service record.

The last Union Veteran was Albert Woolson, who died in 1956 at the age of 109.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, following Woolson’s death, “The American people have lost the last personal link with the Union Army … His passing brings sorrow to the hearts of all of us who cherished the memory of the brave men on both sides of the War Between the States.”


Photo is from 1916 and shows a group of Civil War Veterans posing in front of the grocery store that stood on North Church Street. This building was located in the now-vacant lot next to the Historical Society building.


Veterans Gathering 1916

A view of Veterans standing in front of the old town hall.

Photos Courtesy of


by Jim Houck, Jr.

Loren “Curly” W. Kruen



E-6 U.S. Navy (Retired)

Loren was born to Lawrence W. and Clorence Kruen in a small town in Minnesota in the northeast corner named Edgerton, population approximately three thousand, a farming community. Curly grew up with two brothers, Donovan and Carroll “Buck”, and two sisters, Lois and June. Curly and his brother Donovan are the only surviving members of his family today. When he was about twelve years old, the family moved to Tracy, Minnesota where he attended Tracy Public High School. Curly, at twelve years old, went to work on a farm for his brother-in-law on breaks from school and holidays.

Curly graduated from Tracy Public High School in 1960 and soon after decided to join the military because he had a lot of family – uncles, brothers, etc., in the military. He was very proud of them and decided it was the future for him. Curly wanted it to be his choice and not the draft boards, he chose the Navy.

On July 20, 1960, he went to boot camp in San Diego, California at the recruit training center. He then went to Naval School in Pensacola, Florida. After graduating there, he was sent to Camtasia, Japan for another field school before they sent him to Guam where he was stationed at the Naval Communication Center for ten months. For some reason, he was transferred from Guam early to Okinawa, at Troy Station. While Curly was at Okinawa in 1963, they asked for volunteers for a detachment to go to Vietnam and he volunteered. He went to Vietnam and landed aboard the USS Hancock where he was stationed for three months. When the Hancock was rotated back to Hawaii, it was replaced by another carrier, the USS Midway. Curly was transferred back and was on the Hancock until March of 1964.

He then returned to Okinawa. He was debriefed and spent another six months there before being transferred to the Naval Communications Center in Washington D.C., a small base in the woods south of Andrews Air Force Base. Curly was there for two years after which he was sent to the USS Liberty, home ported in Norfolk, Virginia. The day after Curly reported there, they pulled out to sea. They were on a mission off the west coast of Africa, up and down, for almost six months, returned to Norfolk for a couple of weeks and then went back out again on another mission on the west coast of Africa. When they were on port call at Accra on the Ivory coast for one day  making their rounds of the bars, the shore patrol came and got them and told them they had to get back to the ship immediately because they were pulling out.

The ship had received orders to head straight for the Mediterranean Sea. Curly didn’t know where they were headed, but he had a suspicion they were headed for the eastern Mediterranean where things were getting awfully hot between Israel and Egypt. That was during the Six-Day War where Israel, in Curly’s words “kicked the hell out of Egypt.” His suspicion was right, because they headed for the war zone.

The Liberty was a non-combatant ship and had no guns except four World War II .50-cal. machine guns. They were sent with no protection and no cover whatsoever. Just a couple of days off the Sinai Peninsula, they were attacked by air and sea by Israeli Forces, our ally. They were first attacked by air. The planes that attacked them were unmarked. At the time, they had no idea who was attacking them. They thought it was the Egyptians because Israel was an ally. The fact that there were no identifiable markings on the planes had them really puzzled.

The Liberty was hit from forward to aft with rockets and tandem fire, striking a bunch of men, including Curly, who had just assembled on the port side of the ship towards the fantail and were waiting to go on watch at 4 o’clock. They were just standing around smoking cigarettes like sailors tend to do and were missed by the tandem fire by about fifteen feet. As soon as they were hit, a message came over the intercom for general quarters battle stations. Curly said they all scrambled down below. Some of the guys on deck got hit by the tandem fire. The rockets hit the bridge and blew that apart and several guys were killed on the deck and bridge. Curly’s battle station was down in his work station and orders were that if he had to, he was to destroy all records. He and some other guys were demolishing all classified equipment and paper work. They were an intelligence-gathering ship, or in other words, a spy ship. Curly was down there for quite a while. He could hear the bullets from cannons and rocket fire and they were being hit left and right. All but one of their life rafts were destroyed and all of their communicating antennas were knocked out, so they couldn’t call for help. One of the radiomen managed to get out, fix one antenna, and was able to send an SOS to the rest of the fleet located next to Crete, hundreds of miles away from the Liberty and her crew. Curly said after the planes hit them, there were three Israeli torpedo boats that fired – what some guys said was five torpedoes, but Curly said he only knows of two of them. He said one went about twenty feet aft and missed the ship, but the other one hit them dead center in their working spaces where he was located. When that torpedo hit, it killed twenty-five of his buddies. They had been warned about bullets coming through the side of the ship, so they all made as small a target of themselves as they could. They were laying down on the deck of the compartment with their feet pointed to the outside the bulkhead of the ship. That way, if any bullets did hit them, it would hit their feet and not their head. Curly said no bullets hit them, but the torpedo did. The guy that laid next to him about a foot away, instantly disappeared – just blown away. Curly was blown up into the air. While he was in the air, he thought for quite a while about his fiancée because they had planned to be married the next time he pulled back in to Norfolk. He remembers thinking, or saying out loud, he doesn’t remember which, “I am so sorry, Judy.” That was the last he remembers. He lost consciousness, he doesn’t know for how long. When Curly came to, he was laying in salt water. Mediterranean Sea water was coming through the hole the torpedo made in the side of the ship. He remembered thinking “This is warm,” it was a hot day.

The ship was listing to the starboard side where the water came in and filled the compartments. Curly didn’t know what to do because he said his brains were scrambled. He lay there a few minutes, got up, and said, “I’ve got to get the heck out of here,” but he didn’t know what to do or where to go because the whole compartment was absolutely pitch black. He said he could have scratched his nose and never seen his hand. He sustained a concussion from the torpedo blast that made him temporarily deaf. He could hear nothing, but had pressure like you get at high altitude. Curly couldn’t see or hear, but over to his left was a very gray faint light that gave off no illumination, just a pale gray light. He figured that had to be the hole in the side where the water came in, so he stood up and headed towards that hole. He figured anything that could blow a hole like that could also blow away the deck. He could easily, at any time, just step off into space and he would be gone.

He headed toward that light, but he had to shuffle his feet instead of taking a step, so he would not step off into the hole.  He had to slide his feet so he could feel where the edge of the hole would be. Curly was sliding along and kicked a body. He bent down to see if he could do anything to find out if he was alive or dead, but the body was under about three feet of water. When Curly reached down for him, there was no life response from him. Curly tried to pick him up, but he couldn’t because he thinks something was laying across him holding him down—or maybe he didn’t have the strength to lift him. Either way, there was no response from him and Curly knew he was dead. He had no idea who the sailor was, so he sat down for a couple of minutes next to him until he decided he had to do something to get the heck out of there, because if he stayed, he would die with him.

Curly got up again and headed for the pale light. The closer he got to it, his ears started to work again. He could hear shouting and he said, “Thank God, I’m not alone.” He said he heard a horrible sound, but to hear any sound at that time Curly said was Heaven. He saw other guys standing at the ladder.  There was only one ladder to get up out of that hole to the upper deck. For some reason, the ladder didn’t come down. If it would have, he would not have survived. Curly could have dived out through that hole in the side. He found out later that if he had, he would probably have been shot.

The torpedo boats were circling the ship and shooting at anyone showing themselves in any way. He got lucky by staying inside the ship. His comrades opened the hatch above them and they started to climb out. They had a bunch of injured that had to be taken care of, and they managed to get them all out. Curly and the crew took the injured to the mess deck which was turned into a medical station. He said they carried quite a few of the wounded with arms missing and torsos torn open. They turned them over to the medics. They only had one doctor and a couple of corpsmen. There were some guys that weren’t wounded that helped and they laid the wounded out on tables on the mess deck and the medics took over from there.

Curly said thirty-four men were killed and one hundred and seventy-one wounded, including himself. The total number of able-bodied men aboard before the strike was two hundred and ninety. The count after the strike was eighty-five able-bodied men.

Curly said the heck with it he was going up on deck and help with what he could because there was so much to do. He joined a working party that went around and picked up the bodies of the nine men that were killed on deck. Curly said he knew he had been hit in the back but he couldn’t see it, so he went ahead and joined the party picking up bodies. They picked up two of his buddies’ bodies at the forward machine gun mounts. They wrapped them up and put them in the line locker where they keep all the ships mooring lines and laid them out on the lines. Curly said he was ashamed to say he had to quit because his back was killing him, plus he had broken bones in his right foot. When he quit, he was going to go down to the mess deck and turn himself in to the medics. He had to stop and lean over the rail of the ship to ease the pain in his back. A chief petty officer came over. He was going to talk to Curly, but when he saw the blood on the back of his shirt and pants the Chief said, “Buddy, you are coming with me now.” He took Curly down to the mess decks and turned him over to the medics. They put him on the table. By that time, there had been so many seriously injured, they were running out of all medications. The only things the medic could do was put a battle dressing on Curly’s back and give him two aspirins. The Chief that brought him down got a Navy coffee cup, which is about a half a cup larger than a kitchen or restaurant cup, and filled it with whiskey. No one is supposed to have whiskey aboard ship, but he put just enough coffee in it to give it color to look like coffee. The chief gave it to Curly and told him not to tell anyone where it came from. Curly made the Chief a promise he keeps to this day; he said until he dies, he’ll never give the Chief’s name. He said he feels that cup of whiskey did more for him than all the pain killers they would normally have had, could have done for him. He said that was the best cup of coffee he has ever had in his life.

They had no protection during the whole time they were there and no help from anybody. They went through that night scared that at any time they could be attacked again or a bulkhead could buckle under the water pressure. If that would have happened, the ship would have gone down with them all aboard. They had watches out for any approaching aircraft or boats or anything else. Watches were also set to continuously check for water leaks and any bulkhead that may be buckling under that pressure. Since only a third of the crew was left that could do anything, and that’s not many men, Curly said he thinks they had some help from above because no planes came and no bulkheads buckled until the next morning.

Eighteen hours later they joined with four other ships. The America, being a medical ship, sent over some supplies and personnel by helicopter. The Davis tied up alongside of them and sent over a whole bunch of medical personnel, engineers, damage control people, and electricians – Curly said, “You name it, they sent it over. They took over the ship, except for command of it. They took over everything that needed to be done. They sent over stretchers and crutches and everything.” They started to take the critically injured patients above deck. The most seriously injured went first. By the time they got to Curly, there were no stretchers left. They gave him a pair of crutches. He went over next to the ladder ready to climb up on deck and he saw this other sailor who had a mangled leg. He didn’t have a crutch. The sailor was being helped by a friend of his and he was having a pretty hard time of it. Curly gave him one of his and fell in behind him. Between Curly and the sailor’s friend, they got him up on deck. When they got up on deck the sailor wanted to give Curly his crutch back, but he wouldn’t take it back. Curly said the grateful look on the sailor’s face got him right in the heart. Curly said he didn’t know him because he was from a different division on the ship and he went off to where his people were gathered on the ship.

Curly went up forward to the ship by himself with one crutch to be air lifted aboard a chopper for transport to the carrier USS America. Once aboard, the America crew took them in hand and helped them down into their hospital. They were a great bunch of guys and really did a good job, according to Curly. When they got down in their hospital they had to go through triage which is a process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for medical attention. Curly went through triage. He waited two days before they got to him, because the doctors were working twenty-four hours a day in the operating rooms since there were that many wounded. By the time they got to Curly, they took him in, fixed his foot, and then performed surgery on his back. They dug shrapnel out of his spine and when they did, they made a hole too big to close. So, he was walking around with an open hole in his back. Curly was there for two weeks and then they put him in a helicopter and he left the USS America for Naples, Italy to a Naval Hospital where they did surgery again. This time, they closed the hole in his back. He was there a week when he was transferred to Frankfort, Germany to an Army Hospital for another week. There, he just lay around and healed.

Curly then flew by military plane from Rhein-Main Air Base back to the United States and landed at Andrews Air Force Base. It was a full plane-load and the wounded were sent all over America to different hospitals. Curly, being engaged to be married, chose Washington, D.C. He was sent to the Navy Hospital at Bethesda, Maryland. He said he thought that was great because that’s where the President went, and if it was good enough for the President of the USA, it was good enough for Curly. While he was there, the stitches were removed from his back. He spent a month going through therapy.

On August 10, 1967, three days after being discharged from the hospital, he was married. Curly’s new bride was Judith Lee who was a descendant of General Robert E. Lee. He was then transferred to Norfolk, Virginia to the naval Communications Station. He was given three medals: Combat Action, Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation. Curly was at Norfolk for a year, then transferred to Rhoda Naval Base in Spain. While there, he was awarded the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation “That ended the Liberty incident,” Curly said. He remained in Rhoda, Spain for four years. Curly was sent there for three years, but at the end of three years, the Navy ran out of money, so they delayed all transfers for another year. He lived there in a Spanish town for four years and said they had a ball and loved it there.

Curly was then transferred to Turks Island in the British West Indies, just off Florida, and he was on isolated duty there for a year. His family couldn’t go with him. He and Judy bought a house in Lanham, Maryland and his family stayed there. Curly was then transferred to Bermuda for a year. He said he hated that place. It was no place for him. He said it was beautiful, but duty there was bad.

Curly was next transferred to the aircraft carrier USS Independence for two years.  He loved it. They made several cruises; one was in the middle of winter. They went up the North Atlantic and across the Arctic Circle to see if they could hold flight ops, war games, in those conditions. They went to Northern Norway. Curly said it was rough up there. For an aircraft carrier, they were bobbing around like corks. They couldn’t run flight ops, but they chipped tons and tons of ice off the flight deck; otherwise, it would have gotten too heavy and they wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Curly said, “Cold! My gosh, whoever said salt water doesn’t freeze should go up there in the middle of winter.” He said when you cross the Arctic Circle you become a blue nose. They finished their flight ops there and then pulled into Portsmouth, England for down time. Two years later, Curly came back to the states again and was stationed at the Naval Communications Station at Annapolis, just across the water from the Naval Academy. After two years there, he was again transferred to another ship, the USS Guam, a landing platform for helicopters. While Curly was on there, he was part of a Master of Arms Force. He said it’s like a police department in town. He spent a year on the USS Guam. He retired May 30, 1980, and the ship was in dry dock at the time at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

That completed twenty years of service for Curly. He went back to his home in Lanham, Maryland to be with his wife, Judy. He went to work in D.C. for Press Releases Wire, a news wire service where he was a wire chief for six years. Curly and the family moved from Lanham to Thurmont in 1986. He has two sons, Tom and Ed, a daughter Darlene, three grandsons and two granddaughters. His oldest boy, Tom, lives in Smithsburg, Maryland, His second son is Ed who lives in Flugerville, Texas and his youngest, Darlene, lives in Taneytown, Maryland. Tom has three children, one son and two daughters, Ed has one son, Corey, and Darlene has a son, Joshua. Curly said he worked for so many years behind closed doors in the intelligence field, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to drive a truck over the road and see the sunshine. He drove for several different companies since moving to Thurmont in 1986: Bowers Lumber, J&R Transports, Delauter Construction Company and Home Run, hauling oversized loads.  After twelve years, he retired. Curly’s wife, Judith, had a heart attack and needed care. He took leave, turned sixty-two, then quit any jobs. He retired. For eight years, he was his wife’s care-giver. Curly lost her two and a half years ago. Since then he’s been on his own. He told me that he has never told his story to anyone, even his family, and that I am the first to hear it. He said he felt it was time for his children to hear the story and reading it would be a good way. He had to stop several times while telling his story to me and I can understand why. It was getting to me emotionally and I didn’t live it. I only heard it from Curly.

I know that Curly is the true definition of Hero. When you see him, shake his hand and thank him for sacrificing so much to serve our country.

I am so proud to have met and talked with Curly. Thank you and may God Bless you, Curly.

The People in My Life for Whom I am Most Thankful

by Jim Houck, Jr.

I have many people in my daily life at this time for which I am very thankful. I would like to start out by thanking my wonderful family. I thank my mother, Mary Jean Wantz Houck, for giving me life and guiding me through my informative years. I thank my sister Connie and my brothers, Bob, Tom, and Marc for helping to keep my youth exciting and adventurous. I am very thankful for them today, because if I need them, I know that all I have to do is contact them and they will be there. I am thankful for my wonderful wife, Joan Wormley Houck, for putting up with my weirdness for… let’s see, November 7, 2014, will be fifty years of marriage and two years of courtship—wow, that’s fifty-two years! I am thankful for my beautiful and talented daughter, Missy Houck Saylor, and my workaholic son, Jim Houck III, for making me so proud through the years. I am thankful for my six grandchildren and my thirteen great-grandchildren, and regret not seeing them as much as I would like. I love my family and thank God for them every day, and pray for Him to watch over them. I am thankful for all of my relatives in the community, and you know who you are—way too many to name in my column.

I want to thank all of the great people at Francis X. Elder American Legion in Emmitsburg and, especially, Sons of the American Legion Squadron 121. I have been their commander for a few years now, and I can truthfully say I am proud of them all and, especially, my officers. My 1st vice commander is Mark Zurgable. Mark is well known in the community and operates Zurgable Bros. Hardware Store. Mark is always willing to help with our many fundraising events to help the people in need throughout our community. Mike Hartdagen is my 2nd vice commander and takes care of our membership and does a great job. Mike is very detail-oriented, which comes from the many years he worked in the air conditioning and heating industry. He has health issues, as I am sure anyone who knows Mike is aware, and he still continues being a great aid mentally, if not physically, to our projects. My treasurer is Gary Stouter, and he does a great job at keeping our finances straight. Gary owns Mountain Liquors, and he not only helps with events, but he donates a lot of things we use at the fundraisers. Fred Hoff is my adjutant (secretary) and does a good job taking care to keep our minutes from one meeting to the next. I can call Fred to assist with something one of our members has been assigned to but is not able to attend, and Fred—if he is in the area—will always say yes. Dick Fleagle is my chaplain and takes care of our opening and closing prayers. He keeps check on our members; if someone is sick, in the hospital, or has passed on, he sends them and/or their family cards, fruit baskets, or flowers. Tim Hane is my sergeant at arms and maintains order at our meetings, makes sure the flags are in place, and my gavel is present. Tim also guards the door; when we have ceremonies, such as the swearing in of new members, he instructs and escorts them to their proper post.

I am very thankful for having these people and our members in my life. A friendly reminder to all SAL members: dues are now payable for 2015 and are $20.00, but if you wait until after December 31, 2014, dues will be $25.00.

I am thankful for VFW Memorial Post 6658 and their people, but especially thankful for VFW Men’s Auxiliary Unit 6658, where I am the senior vice president. The president of this great unit is Leo Hobbs, and he does a great job of leading us. Leo controls his meeting and reminds everyone we exist to help the children in our community. When Leo has a plan for a fundraising event, he gets right to the point, and after discussion by members, his plan usually is voted a go. We are having our annual Shrimp and Chicken Feed on November 8, 2014, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Please check the VFW website and Facebook for all the information about Feeds and other events at the Post. Leo’s junior vice president is Josh Weatherly. Josh is in charge of membership and has done a great job for a few years now. He also is at most of our functions and helps in many ways. Leo’s secretary is Steve Seidel, and he has been taking minutes for MAVFW Unit 6658’s meetings for a few years. Steve recently got married and has been “missing in action” for a few months. Steve Wojciechowski is Leo’s treasurer and keeps the checkbook in order. He comes out to help at most events and does a really good job. Mark Zurgable is the chaplain for the unit and never misses a meeting, unless he forgets—you know how old age affects some people. He helps with most events and is usually there from start to finish. Leo’s trustees are Dick Fleagle, Bruce Weatherly, and Lu Norris; they all do a great job of double-checking the treasurer’s report, as well as volunteering at our events. Bob Kuhn is Leo’s sergeant at arms and announces and escorts in anyone visiting our meeting. MAVFW Unit 6658’s officers are all people of whom I am very proud, and I thank God to get to work with such a great group of people.

AMVETS Post 7 Thurmont has some fantastic people in their organization, and I am thankful I know a lot of them. I am also proud and thankful to be a member of Sons of AMVETS Squadron 7 and an officer under the command of Commander Mark Zienda. This is Mark’s second year as commander of Squadron 7, and he has done a great job thus far. Mark, along with taking care of his ailing father, manages to do his job and more. Even if he has to get back to his dad, he puts in an appearance to let the members know he is behind them. Mark’s 1st vice commander is Dick Fleagle, and he takes care of membership—there is no one better at it than Dick. Dick is a very serious person when it comes to his job of membership; he could probably get around a few things regarding membership, but his ethics won’t allow him to do that. With Dick, it is either right or wrong, and you can bet your last dollar that it’s always going to be done the right way. I am Mark’s 2nd vice commander, and my job is to report to National SOA with all of our volunteer hours accumulated monthly to get credit, and to give our delegates more power to negotiate on Capitol Hill for our Veterans. Mark’s 3rd vice commander is Brian Payne; his job is to come up with events for fundraisers to aid Veterans and our community. Brian has been doing a great job, and we are proud of him. He also volunteers at various functions at the Post. Joe Forrest is Mark’s adjutant, and he keeps account of all things happening at our meetings. Joe volunteers at our functions and supplies lots of desserts at our events. Mark’s treasurer is Bob Gouge, and he controls the money flow for Squadron 7. Bob gives an accurate and up-to-date report at each meeting. He also volunteers at many of our events when possible. Craig Williams is Mark’s chaplain, and he reads the prayer before and after meetings; he finds out who is sick and who has passed and handles them appropriately. Tim McKinnon is Mark’s judge advocate and interprets our standing rules and bylaws and enforces them. Tim also volunteers at many functions. Jim Payne is Mark’s VAVS officer and attends meetings at Martinsburg Veterans Center; he keeps us informed of what is happening with our Veterans. Jim is an active volunteer, also. Mark’s provost marshall is Pauly Krygier, and he guards the door and escorts those to be sworn in to the proper position. I am truly thankful for being able to associate with such a great group of officers and members.

The Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS is another organization of which I am proud to be a part. The Commander is Ed Stely and he is a fantastic man. I really gained a lot of respect for him when he and I were in Memphis, Tennessee, at our National Convention. Ed’s 1st vice commander is Doug Penwell, and he is the right man for the job. Doug takes care of membership and stays right on top of things, because he has to account for membership at the Squadron level as well. Wade Clem is Ed’s 2nd vice commander, and he takes care of the reports for volunteers at Squadron level and reports to National. I am Ed’s 3rd vice commander, and it is my job to come up with fundraiser projects for the Department of Maryland and distribute them to the Squadrons. Bobby Stouffer is Ed’s adjutant and keeps the minutes from one meeting to the next, and he does a very good job. Joe Forrest is Ed’s judge advocate, and he interprets standing rules and bylaws. Ed’s chaplain is Dick Fleagle, and he does a fine job, as he does in everything else. I am Ed’s public relations officer, and it is my job to keep us in the spotlight. Ed’s VAVS officer is Jim Payne; and, for being new at it, Jim is doing an excellent job. Doug Penwell is acting treasurer for Scotty and doing an excellent job. Billy Kolb is Ed’s provost marshall and has always been good at it. I am proud and honored and very thankful to know and be a part of this great organization.

The Catoctin Banner is the best monthly community newspaper I have ever read. I am proud to call Deb Spalding a friend. And I think she understood a long time ago that if you are going to publish a community paper, you write about things happening in your community, not things happening halfway around the world. The community you live in and the surrounding communities are the world for the people living there. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to write for the Banner and will continue writing for her as long as I am mentally able. I listen to a lot of feedback from folks and I see lots of people, and I feel confident this paper will be around for many years, as long as it prints the quality material it has been writing. I am thankful to be associated with The Catoctin Banner and all the great people that help to put it together.

Thank God for the United States of America; my family; the American Veterans; and our community newspaper, The Catoctin Banner.