USA, SMA celebrate Army's 241st with hometown vets in Philadelphia

By C. Todd Lopez

PHILADELPHIA (June 13, 2016) -- Under Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, both natives of Pennsylvania, trekked up north to celebrate the Army's 241st birthday with veterans in the Delaware Valley Veterans' Home here, just 17 miles north of the Liberty Bell.

"I will tell you, all of you being here today ... to celebrate the Army birthday with these American patriots here is something very special," Murphy said.

Under Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy meets with Women's Army Auxiliary Corps veteran Elena Helen Bucci, of Philadelphia, at the Delaware Valley Veterans' Home, June 13, 2016, in advance of the Army's 241st birthday. Bucci joined the WAAC in 1941, and worked as a clerk. She said she was a "bashful type" and joined at the insistence of her mother. "I made my mother proud," she said.

The facility is home to veterans from World War II through Vietnam, and Murphy tipped his hat to them all, making a special point to mention those from Vietnam, whom he said were unfairly treated upon their return from the conflict they fought in.

"I always make a point when I see a Vietnam veteran to say thank you," he said. "The Vietnam generation -- when a lot of them came home from Vietnam they were not welcomed home with open arms. They were not necessarily treated, in my opinion, the proper way."

Murphy pointed out that even though Vietnam veterans weren't given the warm welcome home that those who returned from World War II had gotten, those same veterans offered thanks and gratitude to him and his men when they returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I did two deployments myself," Murphy said. "And when I came home, it was the Vietnam veterans -- all the veterans really -- that made a point to say 'welcome home brother.' That's something I will never forget."

Today, Murphy said, there are still Soldiers deployed or forward stationed around the world, still in harm's way, in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Korea.

Those Soldiers, he said, "are doing what's necessary to make sure that we live and have the American way of life we have, one of liberty, freedom, justice and equality."

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey meets with Army Air Corps veteran Venuco Carmen, of Philadelphia, at the Delaware Valley Veterans' Home, June 13, 2016, in advance of the Army's 241st birthday. Carmen was drafted in 1942 and worked as a parachute rigger in both theaters in World War II.

Like Murphy, Dailey is also a Philadelphia native. He brought with him to the veterans' home a short history lesson to let veterans there know why he and Murphy had opted to spend two days during the Army birthday week in their own hometown. Philadelphia is the hometown of the Army too, he said.

"241 years ago ... just a few short steps down the road, a bunch of gentlemen had a vision," Dailey said. "Exactly what the undersecretary describes: freedom, liberty, justice and equality for all. They were [traitors,] what they were doing, and would have been treated as such, had we not [won]. But they also were visionaries. They had the vision they had to produce something that preserved that way of life."

On June 14, 1775, he said, those men in Philadelphia created the U.S. Army, from just six small companies of men in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland.

That new Army, Dailey said, would "take on the daunting task of defeating the most capable, lethal force in the world at the time, thereby delivering the promise that those forefathers gave us today: to be able to live in a nation that prospers, that has equality and justice, and has opportunity for everybody. And each one of you in this room has contributed to that legacy. The long, hard-fought battles you fought in, the service and sacrifice that you gave to your nation, is the reason why I am here today, and why I have the privilege of being the sergeant major of the Army."

Two of those veterans in attendance, both Philadelphia natives, were Venuco Carmen, who was drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1942 and who served in both theaters of World War II as a parachute rigger; and Stanley Wojnarowicz, a rifleman in the European Theater during World War II who was drafted in 1942 and served to 1946.

Wojnarowicz, a rifleman, said his unit spent about a year chasing Germans from Naples, Italy, to Rome.

Under Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey watch as Army veteran Myer Kurgan cuts an Army birthday cake at the Delaware Valley Veterans' Home, June 13, 2016, in advance of the Army's 241st birthday. Kurgan was drafted into the Army in 1941 and served until 1945.

"It wasn't just overnight, they were here, and we'd chase them, they'd move and we'd go chase them again," he said. His unit, he said, was unrelenting in their pursuit of the Germans. "They didn't have a chance to bury their dead."

Wojnarowicz said he's impressed with Soldiers today. "They have all that knowledge in weapons," he said, "And there are better weapons now than we had then."

Carmen served in both theaters in the Army Air Corps, and said he rigged parachutes not only for men who jumped from planes, but also for aircraft arresting devices, as well as for bombs. He said while he was in Saipan -- he was there during the invasion -- he rigged a parachute for one of the atomic bombs used in the Pacific theater.

"I had to put parachutes on the bomb -- the atomic bomb -- so it goes down slow, so it gives the planes a chance to run away," Carmen said.

Carmen said he spent at least a year in England, at the onset of his time in the Army Air Corps, and said he remembers that the Germans bombed England mercilessly. "They'd bomb you day and night, the Germans -- you had to run for your life."

After at least a year in England, he said, he and about half his unit were sent to the Pacific theater. He was part of the invasion of Saipan, Tinian and Guam.

Before departing the facility to head back to downtown Philadelphia, both Murphy and Dailey toured the remainder of the veterans' home to visit with those former service members who couldn't make it down to the celebration.