A Middletown community honors its U.S. military veterans
Gallery: Tribute to veterans [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Steve Hoffman
The Springmill community in Middletown came together to honor the service and sacrifices of U.S. military veterans with a celebration at the community’s clubhouse on June 11.
A crowd of more than 150 people turned out to honor the 50 Springmill residents who served during the Vietnam era, 1959 to 1975, and another 20 residents who served during the Korean War era, 1950 to 1955. The community had previously honored its World War II veterans with a similar event.
June Stemmle, a retired history teacher who was one of the event’s organizers, said that it is important to honor the veterans. Not only was the tribute a way to thank them for their service, it was also an opportunity for the men and women to share their memories with each other.
Stemmle welcomed the veterans to the event, thanking them for their service and for sharing their stories with everyone in attendance.
As the veterans entered, they received a book that included interviews and profiles of all the current Springmill residents who served in the military. The book was compiled and published by the Springmill Communications Committee.
A six-foot table was set up in the middle of the room to display military artifacts, many of which were provided by veterans Brian Blackney, Sam Corkadel, and John Kish.
A video monitor was set up so that guests could watch a slideshow of many of the veterans who live in the community. For some of the men and women, there was a photograph of when they were in the military, and another current photograph. This slideshow was prepared by Dick Rausch.
The kitchen area was decorated like a mess hall, and Chef Martin Sevcik, from 301 Plaza Restaurant, prepared a variety of treats for the guests.
Helen Jackson, a concert pianist, was on hand to provide musical entertainment. She played the songs of each branch of the military. As the veterans heard their song, they stood up to be recognized.
The veterans who attended the celebration expressed their gratitude for the event.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Sam Corkadel, who enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at the age of 18 in 1960. “These are people who fought for their country.”
Robert Jackson, who was drafted in 1963 and was assigned to a Military Police Company, serving until 1965, said that he was very appreciative that the Springmill community remembered veterans in this way.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “We want to show all the veterans that we’re grateful for their service. Sometimes that service is forgotten, but not in Springmill.”
“This is really nice,” added Cecilia Kish, who enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at the age of 21 and spent three years in the military, including a year in England. She is the only woman who lives at Springmill who is also a veteran.
Kish called her time in the air force a great adventure, and said, “It was really the best thing I ever did.”
Middletown mayor Ken Branner was in attendance at the event and called it a “very special occasion.” He said that it was an opportunity to thank the veterans and to give recognition to those who serve to protect our freedoms. Branner himself served as a Marine during the Vietnam War era.
A few of the other special guests included Gen. Terry Wiley, who represented the VFW, Commander Ray Abbot, representing the American Legion and Rick Hager from the National Veterans’ Assistance Coalition.
“Thank you for the invitation and for the opportunity to be in the midst of so many great veterans,” Abbot said.
Hagar explained that the National Veterans Assistance Coalition is an organization that helps military veterans transition back to regular life after their time in the military. He briefly talked about some of the issues that veterans are facing, including the fact that there could be up to 850,000 veterans who are homeless at any one time. Of those, Hagar explained, up to 50 percent of all homeless veterans are from the Vietnam era.
Sonya Comstock, a resident of the Springmill community, lauded Stemmle for planning the event. There are approximately 362 homes and about 500 residents in Springmill, and a significant number of residents are military veterans.
Comstock said that Stemmle had been hard at work planning this event since January.
Dick Rausch agreed, saying of Stemmle, “She’s the one who put this all together.”
Stemmle thanked Enid Wallace Simms, a senior public affairs manager, and Tara Williams, a project liaison at Delmarva Power and Light because the company funded the printing of the books about the veterans of the Vietnam and Korea eras. Copies of the books were distributed to the MOT Senior Center, the Middletown Historical Society, Historic Houses of Odessa, Appoquinimink Library, and the Corbit Calloway Library.