Horseshoe Fish and Game Club dedicates a new flagpole, honors a member of America’s Greatest Generation
I think my favorite thing about covering different types of military and veterans ceremonies, from the celebrations to the solemn observances, over the past who knows how many years was getting the chance to say hi and maybe chat a bit with U.S. Army veteran Dick Mohrmann.
A veteran’s veteran who was never too busy to stop and exchange pleasantries with lifelong buddies or strangers he’d never met, Mohrmann is among the very few World War II veterans still with us, one of America’s last remaining links to the Greatest Generation, of which Mohrmann, a longtime Nashuan originally from the Lee, Massachusetts area, is a charter member.
I remember a particular Pearl Harbor Day observance at Bicentennial Park, the triangle-shaped green space adjacent to the Main Street Bridge where the observance typically takes place on the closest Sunday to Dec. 7.
It had to be one of the coldest days on record, and if the frigid temperatures weren’t enough, it brought a bitter, gusty wind along with it for good measure.
Dick Mohrmann was there, of course, as were pretty much all the men and women scheduled to take part in the ceremonies.
As chilled as I was, I remember wondering if such brutal conditions might have an adverse effect on these folks, many of whom were my elders by at least a generation.
But then it dawned on me: Most of these folks standing there, the majority in full uniform, listening intently to each speaker, raising a hand in salute when cued, reciting a verse or two when prompted and following the commands of those in charge – had almost certainly survived natural, or man-made, conditions far worse than withstanding a biting wind nipping at their extremities while standing on the Main Street Bridge.
Indeed, once you’ve spent the day dodging bullets, diving into foxholes, trying to watch your and your buddies’ backs while simply striving to stay alive to fight another day for your country, I’m quite sure that withstanding a sub-zero wind chill for 20 minutes in friendly downtown Nashua felt like a day at the proverbial beach.
A few months ago, retired Merrimack dentist Michael Vacca gave me a call regarding Dick Mohrmann, his friend and fellow member of the Horseshoe Fish and Game Club over on Greens Pond Road in Merrimack.
The club, Vacca explained, had just installed a new flagpole in front of their clubhouse, and when it came time for the dedication and the symbolic first raising of the flag, the members chose Mohrmann, who holds the distinction of being the Horseshoe Fish and Game Club’s only remaining World War II veteran.
After some delays thanks to COVID-19 and other scheduling issues, the ceremony took place last August. Mohrmann and several other members of Nashua VFW Post 483 gathered around the new flagpole, and on cue Mohrmann tugged on the ropes, hoisting the 5-foot by 8-foot American flag to the top of the new 30-foot pole.
The club retained its original 18-foot pole, Vacca said, on which the POW and MIA flags now fly.
Vacca, who does the publicity for the club, wrote up a brief bio on Mohrmann for the occasion.
Titled, “A Salute to America and The Greatest Generation,” I feel it’s worth sharing.
“Richard “Dick” Mohrmann entered the U.S. Army just after turning 19 and was in the 33rd Infantry Division, 136 Regiment, Company E under the command of General Douglas MacArthur when he fought in the Battle of Luzon.
The Japanese occupied Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, until it was liberated by Allied Forces. Dick was fighting in the Northern part of Luzon in a mountain area with limited supplies and often used his helmet to catch rainwater.
Dick then started to train for the invasion of Japan that was supposed to take place on November 1, 1945 – but became unnecessary with the surrender of Japan after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
During his training, he had to climb and descend drop nets on the side of ships and crawl through rice paddies with water sometimes up to his neck. Dick was also part of the initial U.S. occupation force in Japan after the war. His work included the inspection of factories, schools and temples for armaments, which were then destroyed.
Dick said the easiest way to dispose of airplane engines was to dump them in the ocean. He found the (Japanese) civilian population to be pleasant, describing them as passive and cooperative. When waving to them, they would respond with their custom of bowing.
If our troops had to invade Japan, the U.S. Navy estimated that we would have lost between 400,000 and 800,000 members of our greatest generation.
We thank God for their bravery and dedication to the preservation of our freedom.
Mr. Richard Mohrmann, we thank you and are grateful for your service to our country and sharing your experience with us so we will always remember the sacrifices that our military has made, and continues to make, for our safety and precious freedom.” – MICHAEL VACCA
Dean Shalhoup’s column appears weekly in The Sunday Telegraph. He may be reached at 594-1256 or firstname.lastname@example.org.