Veterans find common cause at new discussion group in Wareham

Feb 19, 2018

On the battlefield, “leave no soldier behind” is a promise among those who serve. But a new group has found as their fellow veterans age, a new motto is needed: “Leave no soldier forgotten.”

“They sit staring at the walls thinking: ‘What will I do today?’” said John Verrier of Wareham, a founding member of the Greater New Bedford Marine Corps League. He spoke during a freewheeling discussion amongst other veterans in West Wareham.

The discussion group, launched in December by Wareham’s Susan Grebber, started as a way for veterans to connect. Grebber was working on a series of videos for Wareham Community Television where veterans are taped sharing their experiences. She met several widowers who lived a few miles from one another and wanted to bring them together. Soon, word spread and others started attending meetings, held in the West Wareham Dunkin' Donuts.

Grebber, whose father fought in World War II, volunteers throughout the year visiting veterans in hospitals and group homes in the region.

“I have a lot of respect for veterans,” said Grebber. “I can’t give any money, but I can give my time and my heart.”

On a recent Monday, the group came together to discuss their experiences, but touched on a recurring theme – not enough was being done for those who served.

Verrier spoke about his group’s mission. Founded four years ago, the corps raises funds for veterans causes. Members visit veterans throughout the region, too. Verrier noted his group seeks to do more and push state leaders to take action.

“We’re here so people don’t forget veterans,” said Verrier. “A dialogue is starting to happen I think, about the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Those at Monday’s meeting agreed, touching upon something else they felt was an issue plaguing veterans.

“There’s a disconnect between the American public and veterans,” said Bob White, a retired U.S. Army Reserves colonel and Wareham Veterans Council member. “Nobody I know is over in Afghanistan. It doesn’t affect me one bit.”

Retired Colonel Joseph Napoli, of Marion, contrasted that attitude with a different time.

“During World War II, we were united in a way that we haven’t been before or since,” said Napoli.

The group talked about some action they could take, such as pressuring elected officials through petitions, but will take more time to figure out how to help. Some issues discussed included properly taking care of graves and reforming the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which they admitted is a huge undertaking.

“That’s a story for another day,” said Napoli.

In the meantime, Grebber said all veterans are invited to the group discussion, which sometimes features guest speakers. Grebber has extended an invitation to State Rep. Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham).

She said all are welcome “as long they agree to be respectful. It’s all right to disagree, but not to show disrespect.”

The group meets bi-weekly on Mondays at 10 a.m. in the Dunkin’ Donuts in West Wareham, located at 2360 Cranberry Highway. The next meeting is on Feb. 19. For more information, call Grebber at 617-471-7583.