What did you do after you graduated?:
“I went to Pennsylvania Military College in Chester, Pennsylvania, just south of Philadelphia. It's now known as Widener University. I was a cadet for four years, and I took ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps). Upon commissioning in 1967 I was a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. I also graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in History. I went on to Georgetown University in Washington D.C. I was working on my Master's Degree, but Uncle Sam called me up and said that we need you in the Vietnam War. I spent a year of training to go to the war, and in December of 1969, I went to Vietnam.
I was assigned to a transportation unit that delivered food, ammunition, and supplies to the forward firebases all over the Saigon area. I came back in December 1970. The Army said 'Go home and we'll call you if we need you.' They never called back. I did two years of active duty in total.
I started to look for work and finished my Master's Degree in May 1971. I als wanted to be a historian and I went to each of the services, but no one was hiring except for the Navy. The fact that I had served in Vietnam and that they were starting a project on the Navy and the Vietnam War, I got the job at the Naval History Center in Washington D.C. [now called the Naval History and Heritage Command]. I stayed at the center for 37 years.
I learned as much as I could about Naval history. I had a very rewarding and successful time there. I started in the mailroom, but when I retired in September 2008 I was the Acting Director of Naval History. In that capacity, I was responsible for the 12 Naval museums around the country. I was also responsible for the archives and curatorial programs.
After that, I worked on contracts for the command for several years. I am still doing work on Naval history. I have a book coming out this month: Admirals Under Fire: The U.S. Navy and the Vietnam War (Peace and Conflict).”
Why did you decide to get into a career in the military?:
“I grew up with my father and my two uncles. All three of them were World War II veterans. My father was in the National Guard and he was sent out with the 122nd Connecticut National Guard Regiment to the South Pacific at the beginning of the war.
My uncle Theodore, who is going to be 98 years old this weekend, was in the Marine Corps and served in the Guadalcanal, and my uncle Victor was in the U.S. Navy. My family had all of the services covered.
I grew up listening to their stories of the war and all of their friends were also veterans. I was just immersed in all these World War II stories and I was fascinated by them.
It's a tragic side of human history, but it's a fascinating side as well. You can't take your eyes a sometimes.
When I was in grade school and even in high school, I was als into war movies and documentaries.”
What do you remember from your time at Gilbert?:
“We had a class of 100 so I knew everyone from that class. I played on the football team for three years and I got my varsity letter in the second year. Coach Fortuna was a coach I admired, along with Coach Daniels. I took in a lot of the annual festivities too including the annual Laurel Parade. My father Ed and my Uncle Ted ran the Winsted Furniture Company.”
Do you have any family members that went to Gilbert?:
“All of them! My father, uncle, and I can name 30 more relatives in my family that all went to Gilbert.”
What lessons from Gilbert did you carry with you into the real world?:
“I learned from Gilbert the value of education. I admired my history and geography teachers. All of the teachers invested in my educational development. There were a lot of great people at Gilbert. The educational program was strict in many ways.”
What advice would you give to current students?:
“My advice would be this: the whole world is open to you if you are willing to work hard and apply yourself. Try to learn as much as you can while you have the opportunity. Nothing is holding you back except for your drive. If you don't have that drive, then you won't be as happy as you can be. If you have a dream, just go for it and don't hold back. Put your all into it and care for the people around you and listen to their advice, because if they are older and have been around they will give you good advice.”