Garfield and newspaper tell ‘Stories in Service’
CHESTERTOWN — In 1944, William Wesley Jackson of Coleman stormed the beaches of Normandy, serving under Gen. George Patton.
“We landed on Normandy Beach,” Jackson said in an interview earlier this year for the “Stories in Service” project. “Up over the hill, there were minefields. When you went in them, you had to make the same steps you did going in and going out. Some didn’t make it back.”
Jackson, who passed away in August at the age of 92, is one of many veterans featured in a “Stories and Services” event being held at 7 p.m. Friday at the Garfield Center for the Arts. The event is dedicated to him.
“Stories in Service” is just one of the various ceremonies and events in Kent County this week honoring local servicemen and women, past and present, for Veterans Day.
Partnering with the Kent County News, Tess Hogans, director of the Garfield Center, joined local reporters and volunteers in interviewing and photographing nearly 80 local servicemen and women for the initial “Stories in Service” project.
Photos with short paragraphs from each conversation ran in the Kent County News for several months earlier this year. The photos also hung in the lobby of the Garfield Center during the production of “Mister Roberts,” a play set in World War II, last February.
The Kent County News started running a veteran’s story and photo each week in January, leading up to the play’s opening. The plan was to run the feature through the final curtain call for “Mister Roberts.”
The community response was too great to feature every story in print, even after the weekly feature was extended an additional month. From that, the idea of creating a community event on Veterans Day was born.
Friday’s “Stories in Service” event will feature music, a video and a chance for veterans in attendance to tell their stories.
“I had all this data, and I didn’t delete it because some of these stories are really haunting,” Hogans said.
“Some of these interviews I talked to people for 25 minutes; it was hard to pick a few. So then I thought, what if we made a video featuring these interviews?”
The event will feature this video. It looks to celebrate all local veterans who told their stories. The short video also will include then-and-now pictures of highlighted servicemen and women, backed by their own harrowing anecdotes.
“The goal of this project was to record these stories,” Hogans said.
“Stories in Service will feature the U.S. Marine “Corps Color Guard, Chester River Youth Choir and Kent County High School Band, which will provide a musical sampling to the video.
“We’re calling this event a celebration because that’s what we want to do, we want to celebrate these veterans,” Hogans said. “A lot of people who I interviewed were Vietnam veterans, and one of the classic things everybody says is, ‘Thank you for your service,’ well it wasn’t like that for these guys. They had to hide that they were ever involved in a conflict.”
Kent County News Editor Daniel Divilio said the success of the initial “Stories in Service” photo project is due in large part to Cheryl Saunders, a Big Woods resident who reached out to many veterans in the area, collecting their contact information for the Garfield Center and the newspaper.
“Cheryl gave us the names of so many community members who served. Her efforts took our project well beyond what we could have expected. I offer her my special thanks for all her work,” Divilio said.
Admission is free for this event. More information can be found at www.garfieldcenter.org.
Also for Veterans Day, Washington College will salute the troops with a multimedia, staged production, “Re-Entry: A Performance Tribute to Veterans,” based on the stories, letters, poems and art shared by local veterans.
The event begins at 7 p.m. Saturday in Decker Theater, Gibson Center for the Arts. It is cosponsored by the college’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Department of Theatre & Dance. This event is free and open to the public.
Live dance performances based upon the stories, letters and works of art shared by local veterans of the Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq War and World War II capture personal and public responses to the combat experience in this one-hour program, a news release from the college states. Highlights include a poetry reading by Iraq War veteran Charity Winters and a re- telling of the story of Leroy “Boots” Battle, a Tuskegee Airman.
“Re-Entry” welcomes visiting dancers from two professional dance companies — Ignite: A Company of Dancing Artists and Pieces of a Dream Inc. — led by Washington College dance program director A.T. Moffett.
Prior to the performance, the college will offer a special dinner in Hodson Dining Hall from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Dinner is free for veterans and $12 for all others.
Galena will honor veterans with its annual ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Friday in St. Dennis’s cemetery. The ceremony will honor Harvey Camp, Galena’s longest surviving WWII veteran, who passed away this year. Members of the Frank M. Jarman American Legion post and the Kent County Sheriff’s Office will present the colors.
The ceremony will be followed by a reception in St. Dennis Church.
Additionally, Heron Point will be conducting a flag raising at 9 a.m. Friday commemorating Veterans Day. Widows and families of veterans also will be honored at that time.
Following the ceremony, there will be a cake cutting ceremony celebrating the 242nd birthday of the Marine Corps in the dinner room at Heron Point.
The 16 veterans who are residents at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Chestertown will be saluted during a special ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday at the Morgenc Road facility. The ceremony will include the Dover Air Force Base color guard.
On Saturday, Boy Scout Troop 130 will celebrate its “90 continuous years of service” to the community with an Emerald Jubilee dinner at the Betterton firehouse.
At 1 p.m., there will be U.S. flag retirement ceremonies and a patriotic recognition of Veterans Day. Members of the Frank M. Jarman American Legion post will be in attendance.
The ceremony will be followed by the troop’s anniversary program and presentation and a silent auction at 3 p.m. and a spaghetti dinner at 5 p.m.
On Saturday, a team of Washington College students will be stationed at the Chestertown branch of the Kent County Public Library to scan artifacts and collect stories from WWII veterans and their families.
The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the main meeting room of the library. It is hosted by the StoryQuest Program and the Starr Center at Washington College.
Since 2013, the StoryQuest Program has recorded more than 200 oral histories with people who experienced WWII locally or abroad. The recordings are then achieved at Washington College, where they are accessible to the public.
The Kent County Art Council currently hosts an exhibition of artwork created by veterans called “WarFront/ HomeFront.” Veterans have painted images, written poetry or screen-printed images on recycled military uniforms turned into paper to express their experiences in the military.
The exhibit hangs at the gallery at 101 Spring Ave. in Chestertown. It can be viewed throughout the month from 12 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Also at KCAC, at 2 p.m. Sunday, there will be a poetry reading by Dr. Frederick Foote, a medic during the Vietnam War. He will read from his book “Medic Against Bomb: A Doctor’s Poetry of War.”
Later in the month, KCAC will host an illustrated lecture titled “Beyond Stereotypes: War, Warriors and the Creative Arts.” The lecture will be given at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19 by Tara Tapper, co-curator of the exhibit.
Twin storefront windows at 357 High St. are currently displaying U.S. military uniforms and memorabilia on loan from Kent County service personnel and their families.
Designated as a tribute to local veterans of WWII, Korean, Vietnam and Middle East wars, the tribute closes following Veterans Day.
Rock Hall’s Sgt. Preston Ashely American Legion Post 228 is hosting an open house for veterans from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Additionally, it will host a “Post Everlasting” at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The late William Wesley Jackson, U.S. Army, 32-08 Quartermaster, 1943-1945, is one of many local veterans being saluted Friday at “Stories in Service” at the Garfield Center for the Arts.