Wednesday, April 2, 2003

War prompts retirees to reflect on own service

By Nancy Young
Enquirer contributor

[photo] Jerry Connolly, 77, a Brookwood resident who is a World War II veteran, points to his twin brother, John, in a collage featuring his father and two brothers, all of whom served in the military.
(Steven M. Herpich photo)
| ZOOM |
SHARONVILLE - These days, a visit to Brookwood Retirement Center is like taking a stroll through America's military history.

Photo collages attached to residents' doors and staff offices illustrate America's past conflicts - from World War I to the present war with Iraq. But the photos and names on the posters are personal to the residents and staff of Brookwood. They show long-deceased parents who served in World War I; long-ago photos of the residents themselves serving in World War II or Korea; their children serving in Vietnam and the first Persian Gulf War; as well as their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews now serving in Iraq.

The poster project was the idea of Brookwood staff members Bob Krider, Robyn Herzfeld and Jeanine Holmes.

"Among our 200 residents are many veterans of past wars, and they were looking for a way to rally around our troops in Iraq," Krider says. "The project has been a way for us to show our support. It has also created great dialogue between our residents, many of whom had no idea about their colleagues' military histories."

For Herzfeld and Holmes, the project is even more personal. Both have sons serving in Iraq - Christopher Herzfeld is in the 101st Airborne Division, and Virgil Holmes is a Marine.

"I have a newfound respect for our residents' generation," Herzfeld says. "To realize that in World War II they didn't have any of the communications methods we use today ... no Internet, e-mail, cell phones. They literally dropped their loved ones off at a train station - and, in some cases, didn't hear from them for four years. Today's military families certainly have good and bad days, but we just can't imagine what it must have been like for them."

Resident Jerry Connolly, 77, turned it into a family project.

"My father served in the United States Army during World War I, and family members spent days looking for a photo of him in uniform to add to my poster. Two of my brothers and I served in World War II, and it felt strange to see old photos of us from 50 years ago."

George Griffiths, 78, was also eager to share his family's story. He even searched the Internet to include photos of the old airplanes and weapons he used as a member of the Air Force on his poster.

"My family's military service goes back six generations, to the Civil War," he says. "I served in World War II, and my sons served in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War."

While Brookwood residents were searching for old photos, Robyn Herzfeld received word that her son was to be the subject of an MTV documentary on soldiers.

The MTV program, I'm Shipping Out, will air April 10 at 10 p.m. A special showing has been scheduled in the center's activities room the next day.

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