Navy veterans Ron Nimblett, Brian Gebo lead city parade
VERGENNES — Two of the men at the center of the Vergennes Memorial Day parade are both U.S. Navy veterans, but neither served on what most people think of as typical ships.
Ron Nimblett, who will serve as marshal of Vermont’s largest Memorial Day parade, did his tour of duty in the 1970s under the waves in a submarine. Capt. Brian Gebo, who will give the keynote address at the close of the parade, recently completed his 25 years in the Navy flying helicopters above the waves.
Both men are Addison County natives, and both are excellent examples of service to the country.
The parade, organized by American Legion Post No. 14, will begin at 11 a.m. with a long route leaving from Vergennes Union High School, snaking through the Little City and ending at the City Green. It will conclude with a formal Memorial Day remembrance on the green beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m.
Nimblett now lives in Waltham, just outside the Vergennes city limits, but he grew up on a farm in Bridport.
He graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 1971 and soon after enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
After training, he ended up on the USS Jack, serving his country not on top of the ocean, but under its surface. The Jack was a fast attack submarine armed with torpedoes and nuclear missiles. The boat, SSN 605, was nearly 300 feet long and 31 feet wide and according to some records had a crew of around sailors. It was commissioned in 1967 — the height of the Vietnam War — but it saw duty initially in the North Atlantic. During Nimblett’s time on board the Jack’s mission had more to do with keeping an eye on subs from the Soviet Union.
Nimblett spent more than two years cruising the North Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean aboard the Jack, rising to the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.
Once he returned to Vermont, Nimblett landed on the idea of becoming a teacher. After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees, he began teaching at Vergennes Union Middle School, where, according to a resolution of the Vermont Legislature recognizing his service, Nimblett was “known as the heart and soul of the middle school.”
He taught history, geography and civics in Vergennes for 20 years.
He is proud of his service in the U.S. Navy.
Brian Gebo grew up in Waltham. The son of Albert and Valli Gebo, he graduated from VUHS in 1988. Sure of his intended life on the sea, Gebo went straight to the Maine Maritime Academy and formally joined the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer in 1992. Thus began an odyssey that took him to many exotic locations around the world.
Not the least of those exotic locations was the seat of Navy helicopters.
Gebo learned to flight propeller-driven birds at a naval base in Florida with a squadron called the Airwolves of HSL-40, with “HSL” short for “Helicopter anti-Submarine squadron Light.” It was quite the opposite tack of Petty Officer Nimblett.
The same year he entered the Navy — 1992 — Gebo married his high school sweetheart, Heather Holzschuh. Over the past 26 years they have raised a family of three boys: Brady (who is now 17), Aidan (15) and Spencer (10). Gebo notes that they are “energetic.”
Once he got into helicopters, the Navy had plenty of plans for Ensign Gebo.
While with the “SwampFoxes” squadron, he deployed to the Arabian Gulf, then served another tour there with a different squadron.
After that came tours in the Caribbean Sea catching boats carrying illegal narcotics toward the U.S. He also was stationed in Hawaii and Italy.
Along the way, Gebo served in various capacities, including as an instructor, evaluator, administrator. His command responsibilities grew, and he was named a “Junior Officer of the Year.” Later, he earned a “Pilot of the Year” distinction. He was commanding officer of a squadron known as the “EasyRiders.”
Gebo earned a Master’s Degree in National Security Studies at the Naval Command College in Newport, R.I., where he was in a select class of 47 naval officers from 44 countries.
Gebo flew more than 3,400 mishap-free flight hours in the SH-60B Seahawk helicopter and landed on over 50 U.S. and foreign naval vessels. He concluded his Naval career in a command of 150 sailors in Virginia with the rank of captain.
Capt. Gebo retired from active Naval service on July 1, 2017, and returned with his family to Vermont. He works in his hometown, Vergennes, at UTC Aerospace, which just so happens to specialize in equipment for military helicopters.
American Legion Post No. 14 Commander Ralph Wenzel last week said parade organizers are hoping to have jets from the Vermont Air National Guard do a flyover of the 2018 Memorial Day parade in Vergennes. Although they will represent a different branch of the armed forces than Petty Officer Ron Nimblett and Capt. Brian Gebo, you can bet both men will give a smile when they look up and see their brothers in arms fly overhead.
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