Cornwall site hosts jamboree to honor and help veterans

CORNWALL — Morrie Jones was hanging out with a bunch of friends several months ago, wondering if there would be a parade for Vermont’s returning military veterans.
“We decided we were tired of waiting for the parade and decided we would have it ourselves,” Jones said.
The concept of a parade morphed into a three-day-long “coming home” party for veterans, spearheaded by the East Coast Animals Motorcycle Family at a site off Route 125 in Cornwall. The June 5-7 “Veterans Appreciation Jamboree” drew various job recruiters, human services professionals, state officials, vendors and musical performers whose primary mission was to celebrate veterans and to help them improve their lives.
Rick Carroll, president of East Coast Animals, offered up the Cornwall site for the Jamboree. Organizers brought their idea to the Cornwall selectboard and then reached out to various service providers and entertainers to participate. Their efforts proved successful, as such widely known acts as Waylon Speed, Blue Fox and Tammy Fletcher & The Disciples agreed to perform for next to nothing. Admission was set at $10 a head, with veterans (and their families) and children younger than 12 allowed in for free.
“(Veterans) have already paid their ticket,” said Jones, a member of East Coast Animals.
Plans called for the display and operation of some model Chinook helicopters. A flight simulation station was also slated to be offered at the site.
Proceeds from the Jamboree will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project.
Organizers on Thursday morning were setting up staging, sound equipment and a large tent. Jones and Wayne Burlett, another East Coast Animals member and Jamboree planner, called the gathering a family friendly event that they’d like to stage on an annual basis at the same location.
“You can have a great idea, but if you don’t have a place to have it, you might as well not have a great idea,” Jones said.
Along with food concessions, the Jamboree featured a closely monitored beer tent. Customers were limited to three beers.
“If people want to drink more than that, they have to go somewhere else,” said Jones, who believes the Jamboree is the only veterans-oriented celebration planned in Vermont so far this year. It was intended to be devoid of politics and focus on appreciation and healing.
“You can have whatever political opinion you want,” Jones said. “When you are on the ramparts, politics doesn’t amount to anything at all. What matters is the guys who are there and what you’re there for.”
He said veterans returning from combat in the Middle East are encountering some new issues — such as exposure to depleted uranium and improvised explosive devices. There are also the common issues veterans have grappled with throughout history, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and reintegration into civilian life.
“We are trying to get recognition going,” Jones said.
“Our goal is to have people who come here that they develop an understanding that the similarities they have with combat veterans are far more than the differences,” he added. “We also want veterans to be in an environment where they are comfortable. And if people leave here saying they had a great time, we will have met our goal 100 percent.”
Lynn Coale, director of the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, was one several recruiters at the Jamboree on Thursday. He was there to let veterans know that tuition for several Career Center courses — including the meat cutter program — is eligible for reimbursement through veterans’ benefits.
Vermont Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Lang was also on hand to speak to folks who might want to enlist or re-up. As a military official, he was impressed with the Jamboree.
“I think this is a great service,” he said. “It is an opportunity for veterans to be thanked, to get together, and celebrate the things they’ve done.”
Beth Diamond was there on behalf of Vermont 2-1-1, which includes a database of hundreds of resources that specifically serve veterans, active military and their families, plus thousands of additional resources for any citizen.
Kathleen Pratt and Cheryl Connor of Addison County Home Health & Hospice encouraged veterans — particularly those who served as medics — to consider a career as a Licensed Nurse Assistant, or LNA.
And David Wheel, executive director of Vermont Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve, displayed many brochures to inform veterans how to connect with employers as they re-enter civilian life.
Surveying it all was Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
“This week in particular, when we had Memorial Day last week and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion this week, I think it’s appropriate to thank our veterans and recognize what they’ve done for all of us,” Scott said. “We should do as much as we can to help.”
The effort was not lost on Ron Woodley, a former U.S. Army paratrooper with the 173rd and 101st Airborne. Woodley, a part-time Vermont resident, came to check out the activities Thursday morning and vowed to become a regular visitor during the three days of Jamboree activities.
“This is wonderful and puts a great feeling in the heart,” he said. “It makes you feel good inside if you’re a vet.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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