Military vets honored at ninth annual Horizons banquet

By on November 22, 2016

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Veterans from all military branches were honored and thanked for their service at a banquet Saturday night at the Ephrata Business Center.

Many of the 185 veterans brought guests for a total of 303 attendees at the ninth annual Thank You Veterans soiree held by Horizons of Northern Lancaster County. Horizons had the help of more than 60 sponsors, supporters and door prize donors.

A highlight of the evening was a presentation by Navy Commander Brian L. Tothero, a 1991 graduate of Cocalico High School and the son of Barry and Gail Tothero, Denver. Gail is a Horizons volunteer and chaired this year’s banquet committee. The meal was catered by Big John Nolt’s Catering Service, of Stevens, and was provided free to the vets. Guests paid a modest fee for their meals.

Tothero currently serves on the Navy staff at the Pentagon. His prior assignment was as the commander of the USS Buffalo, a nuclear submarine. He talked about his service as a submariner, and gave some (unclassified) details about the Navy’s current submarine force and its mission. He also traced some of its history all the way back to the 64-ton USS Holland, which was the first submarine to be commissioned April 11, 1900.

With 185 veterans in the room, there were 185 stories to be told. Obviously, there wasn’t time to tell them all, but here are a few.

Ray Wallace is 91 years old and spent six years as a member of the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division. He and his fellow paratroopers dropped from the sky behind enemy lines at 1:30 a.m., June 6, 1944 — D-Day. Ground troops would storm Normandy Beach some five-and-a-half hours later. Wallace was dressed for another jump Saturday night, in a khaki uniform with enough pockets to hold a week’s worth of MREs.

After his discharge, he and his wife, Hannah, a nurse, lived in Philipsburg, which is north of State College. When they married, Mrs. Wallace said she wanted a large family, and with her husband’s cooperation, they had six girls and seven boys, some of whom also served in the military. One daughter graduated from West Point and a son, Kevin, also served in the 82nd. Kevin accompanied his dad to the thank-you dinner and told about the elder Wallace’s last jump, July 8, 2008, when father and son both jumped from a plane at the Maytown Airport.

The Wallaces moved to Lancaster County in 1969 when Ray got a job in the Armstrong floor plant on Liberty Street. We could tell you when he retired from Armstrong, except that he’s still working there as a member of the security department.

Another old-timer — we hope it’s safe to say “old-timer” about a 100-year-old gentleman — is Charles Pauling, whose exact age on Saturday night was 100 years, two months and three days, but he didn’t exactly know the hours and minutes.

Pauling was a 28-year-old father of two with an ailing wife when he was called to serve in the Army. His tour of duty lasted just 15 months, but he appeared to have exact recall of just about every day of his service. Because he had been a foreman for the General Baking Company in Philadelphia, the Army promoted him quickly to the duties of a mess sergeant in the Corps of Engineers. He was first stationed in Camp Claiborne in Louisiana, which was closed as the war wound down. He was then transferred to the New York Port of Embarkation, where he was briefly in charge of three crews of Army cooks — 600 soldiers in all — and responsible for feeding troops on their way out to the front, or on their way back home.

“No matter what time of day or night they came or went — two a.m., whatever — they got a steak dinner,” Sergeant Pauling said, clearly pleased that he was able to provide it.

After the war — he was released early because of his family situation — he worked at various jobs, eventually becoming an industrial engineer. He retired 34 years ago from Ephrata’s Dutchmaid Corporation.

Gail Tothero said the annual Horizons banquet welcomes all vets, and noted that they hold it after the official Veterans Day because there are so many other activities for them on their special day.

Next year’s banquet is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18. Tothero encouraged any veteran who would like to attend to call the Horizons Denver office at 335-2336.

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