HARRISON TWP. — There seems to be a big age gap in the former GIs who attended the annual Veterans’ Picnic here Saturday.
There are the World War II vets — a number growing smaller, sadly, every year — then the Korean War vets, then the Vietnam War vets.
Then, there’s a noticeable lack of warriors from the Persian Gulf, versions 1 or 2.
In fact, the youngest veterans at this year’s picnic were the Leatherneck Nation, a motorcycle group of Marines, who this year helped the picnic organizers honor the veterans of Vietnam by passing out special Vietnam commemorative dog tags to Vietnam vets.
Age may not seem all that important, but try telling that to Wesley Walker.
Walker is a veteran of World War II. In a soft voice that makes you lean very close to hear him, the 89-year-old said he was 18 when he went to war.
“We were 18, 19, Walker said. “Now you have these 19-year-olds who commit crimes and people say, ‘Oh, they’re just kids.’ When we were that age, we were saving the world.”
Walker was one of about 10 or so World War II veterans at the picnic at the 4-H Fairgrounds on Route 77 (pictured above, with Walker on the left.)
The picnic was originated by a veteran of D-Day’s Utah Beach invasion as a way of getting his buddies together. He’s long gone, but his son, Paul Blackstock, and Paul’s wife, Bernadette, have kept the event going, even though Paul insists every year, “I’m not doing this again.”
During a ceremony that included the story of how Francis Scott Keys wrote what was to become "The Star-Spangled Banner," author John “Soup” Campbell read some of his book, “They Were Ours,” which is about the Gloucester County men who were killed in Vietnam.
Biff Price, author of the soon-to-be-published “The Revolutionists,” also read a poem he’d written in the first person, but through the eyes and thoughts of a friend of his, John Chalus, who was a member of SEAL Team One in Vietnam.
The official ceremony was concluded with the playing of "Taps."