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by Joseph M. DeGweck Sr.

This July 4th, as you sit back and relax on your porch glider or picnic with your family at your favorite park, remember to pay tribute to those unknown guardians of our national freedoms. Freedoms that have been preserved for the past 228 years. Freedoms protected by the constant guard of our Armed Forces.

It is with this in mind that I would like to tell you of a tale of a typical American family, my family. This could be the saga of any family. Your family, your neighbors family or your friends family. This is a story of five individual and ordinary men who; together with millions of other men and women; stand united to assure that all Americans will continue to be able to enjoy many future family gatherings of celebrating our freedoms. It is reminiscent of fact and informal family parlor conversations.

George J. DeGweck, my father, served in the United States Navy during World War II. He served his duty as a mechanic on board the USS Seahorse; 1941-1945. During this time the USS Seahorse had been engaged in conflict with the Japanese Navy on several occasions. Under fire and depth-charged several times, my father and his comrades spent seemingly endless months of eager anticipation trapped within the grasp of the Pacific Ocean. A grasp, which at any time, might have crushed their ship and committed them to a lonely grave within itself. Helpless yet hopeful, they persevered. For from under the depths of this ocean; my father held tight to the dreams of seeing his newborn son for the first time. The dream of holding my mother once again. The dream of together fostering a home and a family that was and will always be reminiscent of the “American Dream”. A dream that today is a reality thanks to the dedication and commitment of the crew and Captain of the USS Seahorse.

Sager George Loganathan, grandson of George J. DeGweck, served his duty in the United States Marine Corp; 1992-1996. Sager graduated from basic training at Camp LeJune and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. The Marine Corp provided Sager with training in use of heavy equipment but more importantly it instilled in him a sense of focus toward dedication and commitment. Sager developed a discipline that enabled him to finish college and start a family of his own. A family that will continue its march along the avenues of American dreams toward freedom and the safeguarding of human rights.

Robert Vetter is my uncle through marriage, but more importantly he is and always will be my uncle, my friend, my example of an enduring human spirit that signifies the transition from boyhood to manhood. Robert Vetter, at age 18, left a professional career as a pitcher for the Jamestown Falcons in 1943 to serve in the U.S. Army. He left behind his accomplishments of pitching no-hit, no-run games and of pitching to such great baseball giants as Jackie Robinson. Robert was now embarked on a new mission. His unit was engaged in an offensive encounter with the Germans at St. Lo, France in 1944.

Only three American boys returned that day and one of them was Robert Vetter. Battle-scarred, with a plate in his head and a paralyzed left arm my Uncle Bob mourned for his buddies and his comrades who did not return. He seldom spoke of this experience but I have sensed within him a pride of having given and of having been a part of the Allies victory over Hitler’s in-humane dominance of Europe and its people.

Unable to successfully continue his dream to be a professional pitcher, Robert Vetter returned home to raise a family and to become a father, a grandfather, an uncle and a friend to anyone who has come to know him. He built the house that his nephew lives in today. He watched his daughter, Sandy Smith of Java, New York, become a teacher. He watches his grandsons as they raise their families. With a sense pride and with no regret or no remorse, my Uncle Bob holds on to the opportunities and experiences of boyhood dreams of baseball and of manhood accomplishments of family gatherings. They are as dear to him as he is to them. I believe that Robert Vetter encompasses the purpose, the endurance, and the patriotic spirit of the American Soldier.

Raymond Milbrand is the nephew of Robert Vetter. He enlisted to serve in the Army in 1954 and was stationed in Korea. Fortunately he never saw the combat or conflict, as his uncle had been involved in. He proudly served his four years of duty and returned home to start a family and a successful food business from which he retired in the mid 1990’s. Ray always conveyed his pride and gratitude for having been able to serve his country.

Norman Milbrand Jr.(Rusty)is the great nephew of Robert Vetter. He served in the Army from 1984-1987. While stationed in Germany he was able to revisit the area where his uncle and his uncle’s comrades had given so much. Norman returned from his tour of duty with an enriched sense of commitment that he shares with his wife and two children in Eggertsville, New York. Norm is, thus far, the last in a continued commitment of this family to serve its country and to protect its freedoms.

I believe that this portrait of my family is a reflection that is representative of all American families. The images of millions of our fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends will continuously fill the annals of American history as we struggle to protect democracy from the dominance of anarchy. Their lives will impact our freedom as they dedicate themselves to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Many families have given so much more and I pray that they find some comfort in this article. My hat is off! My glass is raised! I salute you! May you be as blessed as I have been while you serve your family, your community, your country and the rights of all people throughout the world.

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