By Cameran Richardson
Since his home was burglarized nearly four years ago and everything stolen, down to the wiring, Eric Cass has been living in temporary housing and trying to get back on his feet. Saturday’s American Legion Post 145’s Indiana Blue Star Spirit of Christmas event gave the Air Force veteran and his 13-year-old son, Parker, their first Christmas together, including a family picture with Santa Claus, since the burglary.
“I told Parker to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas. He said, ‘Dad, I already got everything.’ That’s a pretty special day,” Cass said.
The Cass family was one of 20 military and veterans families from across Indiana that Post 145 of Avon supported in its fourth year of the Spirit of Christmas event. The parents and the nearly 70 children received everything on their Christmas wish list and more, such as stoves, refrigerators, pots and pans, 55-inch televisions, iPads, laptops, mattresses, sofas, clothing, shoes and lots of toys. Many of the presents were wrapped and piled high on tables inside a winter wonderland decorated room at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds in Danville, Ind.
“I couldn’t sleep … the anticipation of the families being here, to go through this incredible day of giving,” said Ralph “Zoc” Zoccolillo, Indiana Blue Star chairman and a Post 145 member in Avon. “That’s what it’s about … giving. There’s no greater gift than to be able to give to someone that’s in need. That’s what (The American Legion) is about.”
The weather was cool and sunny which resulted in a perfect day for Santa and Mrs. Claus to arrive to the Spirit of Christmas event by air -- a Huey. The helicopter circled around the building with its door open and Santa waved to the children and they waved back, jumping in excitement. After landing in an open field, the children along with Santa and Mrs. Claus made their way inside and each family had their photo taken with Santa, Mrs. Claus and Elf Snowflake. The photos were printed and placed in an 8x10 frame.
During the event the children had other pictures taken by a Polar Express train cardboard cutout, and with Spiderman, Indianapolis Indians mascot Rowdie, and with the characters Elsa and Anna from the movie “Frozen.” Elsa and Anna performed two songs from the movie and several of the children came on stage to dance. Then lunch provided by Epicurians Caterers was served.
Before the gifts were delivered, Zoccolillo made a special announcement. He called the parents of Army Spc. James Allen Waters to the stage. Waters, 21, was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan. Zoccolillo presented his parents, Gary and Valerie, with a Gold Star certificate and a specially-made gold and blue star banner. On the banner three blue stars follow a gold star as three of their sons are still serving.
“Most people don’t realize that it’s only 1 percent that serve in the military. We are honored to have four sons that wanted to serve,” Gary said. “They all wanted to join and fight for our country.”
Gary and Valerie had three of their granddaughters with them, and each one received a toy – an American Girl doll.
Then it came time for the children and parents to open presents from Santa as Christmas music played and several youth from the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps carried the gifts to each of the families as they sat at their assigned tables.
“This is our favorite event to do because the cadets are very humbled by this. We love watching the kids open gifts,” said Lt. j.g. Tami Brown, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke DDG-51 Division Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
With his three daughters running around the table to show him their new toys, Army veteran Jon Smothers said, “This is really the only Christmas they are going to get this year. I’ve had a lot of expenses and things go wrong. The girls are excited about everything they got. And just the time I’ve had here to spend with my daughters has been great. We don’t get this very often.”
As her two oldest children opened dolls, Army apparel and games, Marine veteran Morgan Myers cried. “It’s been a rough year for us, so this means the world to us,” said Myers, whose husband, Joshua, still serves on active duty with the Indiana National Guard. The family also received a new riding lawnmower at the event. “It’s just amazing. This makes me want to go out and give back once I get healthy again. To really get out there and volunteer and put this joy back into someone’s life like it has been put into mine.”
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These sketches provided by Ira Dube of U.S. Army 27th Infantry Division soldiers were among more than a dozen done by his father, Stan Dube, during World War II. Ira Dube, found them stashed in the attic of his sister’s home. Now Ira Dube is hoping to identify the men, so he has donated 15 sketches to the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs. (Stan Dube/Ira Dube via AP)
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Before the Army’s 27th Infantry Division was decimated in a bloody World War II battle, Stan Dube sketched portraits of his fellow soldiers. The 17 drawings were forgotten after the war and stashed in an attic for decades before being found a year ago by his son.
Now, Ira Dube is on a mission to identify the men in his late father’s 75-year-old artwork. So far he has definitively identified two of the soldiers, both New Yorkers who served in the 27th Division’s 105th Infantry Regiment, which suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of Saipan in the Pacific. One was killed on Saipan; the other died in the 1970s.
Because the 27th was a former New York National Guard unit, Dube believes most or all of the other 15 men also were New Yorkers. He recently donated the original sketches to the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in hopes its artifacts and records could be used to help identify more of the soldiers. It’s not known whether any of the men depicted in the artwork are still alive.
“These people need to be remembered,” said Ira Dube, 61, a retired Navy veteran living in Woodland Park, Colorado. “I look at these sketches and I see a hero.”
Dube found the signed sketches in the attic of his sister’s home in Mississippi early last year while they were going through their father’s belongings.
Stan Dube, who died in 2009, was drafted into the Army while studying architecture at Syracuse University, and he put his drawing skills to use by sketching pencil- and charcoal-on-paper portraits of his fellow soldiers while the 27th Division was stationed in Hawaii in 1943.
The sure-handed sketches mostly show young men looking pensively into the distance, though a few crack a smile. Dube drew no backgrounds and barely sketched out his subjects’ shoulders, but he took care to capture his subjects’ eyes and faces.
On all the drawings, Dube put the month, year and his signature in the lower right corner. Three of the soldiers signed their names next to Dube’s: Kenneth Reid, Joseph Joner Kratky and Joe Orbe, who added his nickname, “Solid Jackson.”
Using information he found online, Ira Dube was able to track down Kratky and Orbe’s relatives in upstate New York. Kratky was killed on Saipan in 1944. Orbe, a New York City native, survived the war and died in 1974. Dube hasn’t definitively identified the soldier in the Reid sketch.
The unidentified drawings were delivered to the military museum Dec. 1. Director Courtney Burns said the sketches will be posted on the museum’s website and likely will be displayed in an exhibit this year.
“We may never know who any of them are,” Burns said. “But I think that’s part of the mystery and part of the intrigue of them.”
Wilfred “Spike” Mailloux, a 105th Regiment veteran who was wounded during a massive banzai attack near the end of the Saipan battle, recently perused the sketches at the museum to see whether he recognized any of the soldiers. None looked familiar.
“It was such a long time ago,” said Mailloux, 94, a General Electric retiree from the Albany area who’s one of the last surviving 105th Regiment veterans. “We were young squirts back then.”
The American Legion
In 2017, The American Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program provided $149,000 in grants that aided nearly 8,700 veterans and their immediate family members across the nation and overseas. OCW is a program dedicated to meeting the needs of wounded, injured and ill military personnel and veterans by providing recreational, rehabilitative, therapeutic and comfort items. One hundred percent of donations go toward the program.
OCW provided 29 grants last year, and a few of those include:
Visit www.legion.org/ocw to learn more about the program and to donate.
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By: Meghann Myers - Army Times
The service member killed in a Monday attack while deployed to Afghanistan has been identified as a 10th Special Forces Group operator, according to a Wednesday release from the Defense Department.
Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin, 34, died of his injuries following a small arms fire engagement during a dismounted patrol, the release said. Four other soldiers were wounded during the fight.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our own,” U.S. Forces-Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson said in a Tuesday statement. “At this very difficult time our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of our fallen and wounded brothers.”
Golin, a weapons sergeant, was deployed to Nangarhar Province with 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group out of Fort Carson, Colorado, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
The incident is under investigation, the release said. U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt could not provide updates on the wounded.
Golin, who emigrated from Latvia in 2004, enlisted in the Army in early 2005. He served as an infantryman with the 25th Infantry Division in Alaska before graduating from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2014.
He had previously deployed to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan, according to a release from U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
His awards include two Purple Hearts, three Army Commendation Medals and three Army Achievement Medals.
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