DRACUT -- Area veterans and organizations that support them were recognized Tuesday at a Veteran Appreciation luncheon hosted by the Dracut Rotary Club.
Lynette Gabrila, Veterans’ Service Officer for the town of Dracut, spoke about the work and contributions of the following organizations: Christ Church United, the Nam Knights of America, Dracut American Legion, and Jacob’s Well. Representatives from each group -- most of them veterans -- received certificates of appreciation from the Dracut Rotary Club, which is part of Rotary International.
The Sun attended the event and spoke to a few veterans who opened up about their time in military service. Below is what they had to say.
Gerry Dunn, 83, of Dracut (served in U.S. Air Force, 1952-1956)
What was the most rewarding part of serving in the military? “Protecting the people in this country -- that was my obligation. My father says, ‘What do you want to do, son?’ I say ‘Dad, I don’t want to be drafted. I want to go and serve my country.’ And, you know, we go to schools now and then for the kids, and I tell the kids, ‘If it weren’t for the World War II veterans, we wouldn’t be here.’ We go to nursing homes and it’s sad to see these World War II veterans. It is.”
What was the most distressing part of serving? “My mother. Every night when I went to bed, especially when I was in Korea, I used to pray and say: God, don’t let anything happen to me ’cause I don’t think my mother could handle it. I was always thinking of my mother.
When I was small, I was always going ‘My mother’ and my father says to me ‘You don’t love me?’ I say ‘Wait a minute Dad, where’d you get that idea?’ [Gunn’s father said] ‘Well, you’re always confining with your mother, more than me.’ I say, ‘Dad, remember one thing: she brought me into the world.’ He looked at me and he says ‘I had something to do with it!’ ”
How do you feel veterans are treated today? “I think we’re treated pretty good. You know the VA here in Lowell? We go there. It’s excellent. I heard different parts of the country they’re having problems but, in Lowell, the VA ... I have no problems. They’re very good to me.”
Joseph Zangri, 75, of Billerica (served in U.S. Air Force, 1960-1966)
What was the most rewarding part of serving in the military? “I became a senior engineer at Raytheon thanks to the Air Force. I was a department manager there till I retired. I worked there for 35 years.”
What was the most distressing part of serving? “I was in during the Cuban Missile Crisis and we thought we were going to have a nuclear war. I had nuclear weapons on my console. That was the scariest time.”
How do you feel veterans are treated today? “A lot better than when I got out, for sure. We didn’t even say we were veterans back then.”
Roland Provencher, 81, of Dracut (served in U.S. Air Force, 1953-1957)
What was the most rewarding part of serving in the military? “I served my country to take care of the people that needed me. That was the most important part. I spent 18 months overseas and it’s a sad situation when you see people that need food, that need shelter.”
What was the most distressing part of serving? “Seeing one of my friends pass away, not from combat, just he was sick and he passed away. He came from Jamestown, Tennessee. I always remember where he came from.”
How do you feel veterans are treated today? “Treated today? You know I really can’t give you an opinion on that ’cause I really don’t know but I would say I was treated fairly good. Should have been better when I come home. When I come home, mm... it was, you know, OK. You weren’t in the service, it was all over. I have to say, when you meet people from different states, it’s amazing. You can’t buy that education. You can’t even buy that ... when you meet people, and how they feel.”
Michael L. Peaslee, 52, of Lowell (served in U.S. Air Force, 1987-2013)
What was the most rewarding part of serving in the military? “I think just being able to have an opportunity to serve was what was most rewarding for me.”
What was the most distressing part of serving? “I think the most distressing part is when you come back and you see your fellow veterans having a difficulty assimilating back into ... having transitional issues coming back in. I think that’s the most disturbing part.”
How do you feel veterans are treated today? “I think, overall, veterans are treated better today than they have been in the past, but I think that’s not something we should take for granted. I think we should continue to make an effort to take care of our veterans. It’s an important thing for us to do.”
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.