To be Anselmian is to serve. As noted by Dr. Gary Bouchard in Being Benedictine, “The first act of stewardship in any Christian community ought to be our care of one another.” Is there a greater commitment to service than risking your life for others? The over 125-year history of Saint Anselm College has spanned two World Wars and conflicts in Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. By fighting, nursing and ministering, countless hundreds of alumni stepped up then, and still commit today, to military service. The men and women who choose this path, driven and supported by commitment and faith, are a shining example to each other, to those they protect, and to all of us.
This article pays tribute to all Anselmians who served yesterday, today and always.
which he carried during his 30 years of active duty
Jeffrey Boyle ’16 was commissioned as a United States Marine on the steps of Alumni Hall, on the same day as his graduation from Saint Anselm on May 21, 2016. The Boyle family has a long tradition of military service; Jeffrey was administered the Officer Oath of Office by his father, Marine Colonel Gregory Boyle ’81 and observed by his mother Leeann Boyle ’82 and grandfather, Marine Major Edward Boyle ’79. His grandfather presented 2nd Lieutenant insignia from his own 1966 uniform to his grandson.
“This is about service to others,” said Greg Boyle, winner of the college’s Alumni Award of Merit in 2008. “I grew up on military bases and went to bed as a kid with the Marine handbook in my hand, but it was my conscious decision to join. I learned at home and at Saint Anselm to support others, to support my country. Studying ethics, religion and politics made me reflect and help me manage a tough situation. You learn to rely on what’s embedded in your heart and to accept circumstances over which you don’t have control.”
Now 80, Ed Boyle graduated from Saint Anselm only two years before son Greg, having enlisted in the Marines after high school. Ed received the Humanitarian Award from Saint Anselm in 2001.
“Back in the 50s, service was the thing, other than college,” he explains. “I took advantage of the G.I. Bill to serve my country and then go to Saint Anselm.” On the Hilltop, he sat in class with two of his sons, but graduated in two years with earned credits. Then, it was 20 more Marine years before retirement as a Major, having logged “a few times around the world,” over 50 countries and 15 months in Vietnam “right on the demilitarized zone.”
A business major, Jeff Boyle made his own decision to join the Marines, although he says he always looked up to people in the military, and adds: “The values of the Marines are similar to those at Saint Anselm: service to others in a close-knit community.”
Navy Captain Ann Darby Reynolds ’61 recalls her path to service, a serious incident in Saigon and becoming the first woman in Vietnam to receive the Purple Heart:
“I wanted to travel, so a nursing instructor suggested the military even though that role for women seemed frowned on by society,” said Reynolds. “I went through boot camp; learned to identify every plane in the air and ship on the ocean. Soon I was the only female on a cargo plane full of men, flying to Vietnam.
In Saigon, banners all over the city and the Armed Forces Radio Network warned that the Vietnamese planned something big; it was Christmas Eve. Several floors up in my hotel room, I was watching activity at the main entrance when 200 pounds of dynamite exploded below. My window shattered; I was blown across the room. But all I could think of were the wounded I could help.
Finding my nursing shoes in the rubble, I helped direct care for the injured at the hotel and got on the first jeep to leave for the hospital. Others needed help more than me so I let them put an ace bandage around my leg wound and finally got stitches around two a.m. when the other nurses were treated, too. You did what you had to do.”
Reynolds’ next assignment was to the hospital in Nha Trang, closer to heavy fighting “where we didn’t know if we were going to be killed or captured every time the door opened.” When she was reassigned, she headed to her native New Hampshire as a Navy recruiter. She was awarded the Alumni Award of Merit by Saint Anselm College in 2013.
One of Reynolds’ recruits to the Navy: Captain Mary Jo O’Dwyer Majors ’69. Majors initially served in Memphis, Tennessee as a critical care nurse to wounded sailors and marines returning from Vietnam.
“Women had a limited role in the services but as a nurse, veterans would talk to me before they’d open up to their own families. If they’d even open up to their own families.
A common frustration of family members was ‘He just won’t talk to me. He says you wouldn’t understand.’ We nurses get the stories other people don’t because servicemen are more comfortable talking about their experiences with us. And we accept the responsibility. We’ve got help them keep their faith after all they’ve been through.”
Of Saint Anselm, Majors says, “It was a godsend. A Navy scholarship allowed me to finish college and serve my country. My mother instilled in me the importance of service over self, and from there, Saint Anselm was the college that built me.”
Retiring after 43 ½ years of service, Majors continues to volunteer for military and veteran organizations. Selected as Outstanding Woman Veteran in 2010 by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Service, her military accomplishments include the Meritorious Service Medal, Office of the Secretary of Defense Badge, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism medal, and numerous others. Originator of the annual Military Tribute at Saint Anselm Reunion Weekend in June (see related story, page 28), Majors received the Humanitarian Award from the college in 2012.
“Honor. With it, nothing else matters. Without it, nothing else matters.”
Opening with those compelling words by Captain Mary Jo O’Dwyer Majors ‘69 (USN, Ret.), the third annual Military Tribute was held during Reunion Weekend 2016. Over 100 Anselmians celebrated alumni who served in the nation’s military, with Capt. Majors recognizing veterans from each branch of service. Thirty-one servicemen and women were honored at the ceremony.
Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Demers ’66, U.S. Army Reserves (Ret.), also read They Call, a poem about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., in honor of three of his classmates who gave their lives in that conflict: 1st Lieutenant Charles J. Dickey, U.S. Army; Lt. Corporal William “Bill” J. Lily, U.S. Marine Corps; Lt. Norman “Norm” Philip Westwood, Jr., U.S. Navy.
The Tribute was held at the Veteran’s Memorial near Geisel Library. Funded primarily by the Class of 1951, “the Memorial provides a place for reflection and respect,” says Fr. Jerome, O.S.B. ’75, who helped plan the monument.
Originally listing 56 alumni who perished, the Veterans Memorial has seen the addition of one name since its 2001 installation: Marine Captain Kyle Van De Geisen ’02, killed in 2009 while on a mission in Afghanistan.
Another nursing graduate who chose military service, Lt. Colonel Monica Nathan ’69, was Mary Jo’s classmate. Nathan went on active duty in 1974 but says she was called to significant military service nearly two decades later.
“In 1990 when the Gulf War started, I was in charge of the then-largest operating room in the Department of Defense: the now-closed Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. To my knowledge, I was the most junior person in modern times to ever hold that position.”
Previous to the Gulf War, Nathan was an OR nurse in Kentucky, Germany, Texas and California.
“You do your job, and I relied on faith to make the best decisions possible about other people who got torn away from their lives. I truly loved and respected the activated Reservists and National Guard soldiers. They were part of my Army family: distant cousins I hadn’t met until then.”
Monica says deployment decisions were among the toughest she had to make. “I would rather have gone one thousand times over than to decide who I’d send. But that was the job and things weren’t right for me until all my people were home.”
Of service, Nathan says “My parents taught me early on to aim wide and high, to make the world a better place. Don’t just hold a door for someone; truly give to others. With as much as you’re given, you have a duty to give back. There’s not enough discussion about that in the world today.”
In the 21st century, Saint Anselm nurses continue the traditions of their predecessors in the military. Jillian (Murray) Duschene ’00 served in the U.S. Army in Iraq as a registered nurse in the Emergency Room of the 28th Combat Support Hospital. Captain Erica (Horan) Pickard ’06 recently concluded a six-year commitment in the Air Force including deployment to Afghanistan as a critical care nurse. She is now a registered nurse at the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit of the Military Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Not a nurse but a military dentist, Captain Sara Mandell ’09 was commissioned into the Army during her final semester at the college. “My decision to join the military was influenced by my older brother who is on Air Force active duty, as well as my grandparents and aunt who all served in the Navy. While I was applying to dental school [as a biology major] during my junior year at Saint A’s, I received an email from a Navy recruiter; I had no idea the military had dentists.”
Accepted into the Army dental program, Mandell attended Boston University’s Goldman School of Dental Medicine and recently extended her term after acceptance to the Army’s Post Graduate Dental Education Program in Comprehensive Dentistry.
The Soldier Who Became a Priest
Father Wilfrid Paradis ’43, HD ’79 originally imagined a career in medicine. He was a chemistry major at Saint Anselm College, but World War II was foremost in the minds of Americans in the early 1940’s.
Paradis passed away in 2013; however Carolyn Disco is currently editing his memoirs for publication. She says Paradis volunteered as a Combat Medic but given the rigors of war, he was called upon for more than the critical responsibility of caring for wounded. In over two years of combat across France, Germany and Austria, Paradis routinely showed bravery in battle. While under sniper and mortar fire, he ignored a directive to take cover and saved the life of a lieutenant, an action that led to his award of the Silver Star. He was also awarded the Bronze Star, three Battle Stars, a Combat Medical Badge, and a Presidential Unit Meritorious Citation.
Those were days of selflessness and bravery, but to Paradis, they would be the end of one chapter and the start of another. Finally returning to American soil in late 1945, he turned away from medicine. Per Disco, he noted in his memoir:
“On furlough after V-E (Victory in Europe) Day, I recall feeling an immense void in my interior life. During the European Theater of war, my mind began to shift away from a fascination with science to that of the human condition as I saw it in one of its most primitive and brutish forms. I was more concerned with the interior, spiritual life than with physical well-being. The appeal was to service—to humanity for the sake of God.”
Within two months of coming home after military service, Paradis entered the seminary.
Twenty years into his new spiritual role, Farther Paradis was put in charge of implementing the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (“Vatican II”) in the Diocese of Manchester. From 1965- 1968, he secured national experts to speak to New Hampshire clergy and laity, and subsequently donated his working documents from Vatican II to Saint Anselm College.
In 1998, Paradis published Upon This Granite: Catholicism in New Hampshire 1647-1997, a history of the Roman Catholic Church in the state. The book includes a dozen references to Saint Anselm College.
The importance of faith in war and the vital role of chaplains in maintaining that faith is something perhaps best expressed by a former soldier.
In Vietnam over two years, Colonel Philip Kearns ’64 was awarded the Silver Star, seven Bronze Stars, and two Purple hearts—but he declines to share war stories. “We were soldiers doing a job and watching out for our buddies.”
Kearns is forthcoming about his experience with the chaplains he knew, however. “I cannot emphasize enough the vital role they played in the Vietnam War. Chaplains provided spiritual counsel in times of extreme grief. They offered courage and solace on the battlefield, much of it by personal example. They also provided guidance and counsel for domestic issues involving service members separated by thousands of miles.”
Kearns notes that medics and chaplains “were classified as noncombatants, but experienced situations of extreme hostile environment. There was no instance where the individual would be overrun, captured, surrender or shot without defending himself and his comrades, to the last man.”
As for those who took on this challenging and courageous role, nearly 40 years apart, Father Francis Wallace ’44 and Father Richard Erikson ’80 ministered to soldiers.
Father Wallace, now 96 and living on Cape Cod, served as a chaplain in the Korean War and in Vietnam. Regular visitor Peter Labombarde, Director of Gift Planning and Individual Gifts in the Office of College Advancement, says Father Wallace describes himself in terms that suggest a priestly life was not predestined.
“One fall, he stopped in after a summer of working on Old Orchard Beach. He decided Saint Anselm would be a good school to attend, and it certainly was good for him, and for those to whom he later ministered. Father Wallace learned here that he wanted to be a priest.”
That decision led to his service in the chaplaincy of the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1977, incorporating the two Asian wars and stops in Hawaii, Georgia, Maryland, Germany, Italy, Greece and Turkey.
In 2007, Father Wallace was awarded the Catholic Leadership Award by Saint Anselm College.
“Ask any chaplain, they’ll say the highlight of service in a deployed setting is that’s where the need is so great and ministry the richest. Your next moment is not promised to anyone; the need of troops celebrating Eucharist in conflict zones is never greater. Thousands of priests do what I do in civilian life but chaplains have to be capable of serving in that (battle) environment. You need to understand that there’s no greater reward than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend, dedicating yourself to a cause greater than yourself.”
A chaplain for 34 years, Father Erikson ministered in Iraq, became a U.S. Air Force Brigadier General, and accepted Cardinal O’Malley’s request to help navigate the clergy abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston.
“Everyone should serve their country in some way; life and service in government and the priesthood gave me the best of two worlds. To get there, I chose the seminary and Saint Anselm College was absolutely essential in my priestly journey.”
Father Erikson received the Catholic Leadership Award from the college in 2008.
Notably, eight monks from Saint Anselm Abbey have served as military chaplains in wartimes:
- Father Arthur O’Leary, O.S.B. ’27;
- Abbott Bertrand Dolan, O.S.B.;
- Father Brendan Donnelly, O.S.B. ’43;
- Abbott Gerald McCarthy, O.S.B. ’36;
- Father Herbert Smith, O.S.B. ’44;
- Father Paul Houde, O.S.B.;
- Father Robert Quirk, O.S.B.;
- Father Vincent Gerlock, O.S.B. ’58.
Two other members of the Abbey community also served in the U.S. Army. Brother Armand Huppe, O.S.B. was awarded the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Service Medal. “He was a WWII radio operator in East Asia,” remembers Father Cecil Donahue, O.S.B. ’50.
“He was told to watch and wait for an invasion by Japanese forces, and to report back to command. And he did, when they did.” Also, for 18 years including during World War I, Father Thomas Kelley, Obl. O.S.B. served as an Army chaplain around the world, with his final post at Alcatraz, then a military prison.
Father Cecil recalls “Many monks volunteered to serve as chaplains. During World War II, we had practically no students; everyone enlisted or was drafted.”
The Soldiers: Air, Land and Sea
photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy
Marine Colonel Harvey “Barney” Barnum ’62, HD ’02 took control of his rifle company in Vietnam upon the mortal mounding of its commander and the death of its radio operator. The ordeal led to the Medal of Honor in 1967 and just this summer, another high honor: Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, officially named a new Navy destroyer: The U.S.S. Harvey C. Barnum.
“Fifty years ago, a young man from Cheshire, Connecticut was embroiled in battle in the jungles of Southeast Asia,” said Sec. Mabus at the naming ceremony in July. “On temporary assignment to Vietnam, Barnum found himself outnumbered [and] without regard for his own safety, he assumed command, moved into heavy fire, rallied his troops and led a successful counter-attack. During the battle, he coordinated evacuation of the dead and wounded before seizing the battalion’s objective. In other words, on temporary assignment duty, he had sacrificed more for his country than most Americans do in a lifetime.”
Later, Barnum served in Washington but chose to return to Vietnam as commander of the same battery as his first, eventful tour. Continued valor resulted in the Bronze Star with Combat “V,” a Gold Star, the Purple Heart, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Combat Action ribbon, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Silver Star.
“My definition of service hasn’t changed at all,” says Barnum. “What’s fulfilling is giving back to your country that gave you everything. For those who fought socialism and fascism before us. ‘Mission accomplished’ defines everything.”
As a Marine, Colonel David Wall ’65 served in Vietnam from 1967- 68 and recorded a 34-year military career. Wall credits Saint Anselm with building his foundation for value judgements. “With the college’s massive commitment to service, despite Pokémon and the Internet, students today probably know more about service than we knew. But we did know: You get what you give.”
Fresh from his Saint A’s graduation, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Mooney ’92 joined the Marines, flying Cobra helicopters on 80 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Were there tense moments? “Of course, but some of the most challenging missions were the most fulfilling: medivacs, getting servicemen from Bagram Air Force Base to hospital care in Germany. I always knew I wanted to serve both my country and something greater than myself.”
As the nature of warfare evolves, so has the role of military personnel. Where men were once stalwarts of the front line and women their strong support, both genders now contribute with greater equality than ever before.
Navy Lieutenant Lauren Chatmas ’09 recently returned from “the tip of the spear,” a frontline presence aboard the U.S.S. Lassen to support stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region near a disputed region. After four years on the Hilltop, “the biggest thing I could imagine is serving my country, working to ensure freedoms.”
Chatmas lists surface-to-air missiles as her specialty, a skill set “you learn by instruction watches, on the job.” On the USS Porter, she was deployed to the Arabian Gulf. Now at the Pentagon, Chatmas is Protocol Officer for the Department of the Navy.
Other alumna currently serving in the U.S. military include Airman 1st Class Margaret Tereschuk ’13, who graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas. A criminal justice major at Saint Anselm, she is now in the Air Force Air National Guard. Out of Vermont, former international relations major and now 1st Lieutenant Meghan Grant ’13 is a Medical Officer in the 1-172 Cavalry Unit of the Army National Guard. Silvana Waghelstein ’01 had already decided to join the Army before arriving at Saint Anselm. Enrolling in Reserve Officer Training Corps, she continued a long family tradition of service (her grandfather, uncle, and father, as well as her older and younger brothers, all served).
The Army selected Waghelstein as a Signal Corp officer. “Every unit has a Signal Officer (the “Sigo”) in charge of making sure that radios are operating all the way up to general I.T. support, but I was part of a very large brigade that could roll into an empty field
and provide internet and phone service within a few hours. I did two tours in Kuwait/Iraq and Djibouti, Africa in this job.
In my time out there I got to meet real heroes and I understand what real sacrifice is. Hearing the national anthem makes me tear up every time and when I see the American flag swaying in the breeze, I like to think it is those friends I lost saying ‘Hi, I’m here, I’ll always be here.’”
Service: The Continuous Concept
where he was commissioned in 2009
Captain Anthony Vercollone ’08 deployed as a Marine to Afghanistan twice, where he prayed that he, rather than a comrade, would be the one injured. That didn’t happen and it was at times “heartbreaking.”
Yet Vercollone discovered that his time at Saint Anselm as a business major and his military experience gave him an invaluable lesson and one for students for anyone, actually about service today.
“Going into college, the service aspect of Saint Anselm appealed to me and in turn, the challenges in my past gave me a far better understanding of hardship. I hit a winning lottery ticket; I live in a great country and have received a lot. But time out of the military has helped me reflect on ‘the real world.’”
Following his service, Vercollone entered the Military Executive Development Program in Massachusetts at Macy’s Department Stores. He’s currently embarking on a new professional challenge with Amazon.com in New Jersey.
“Applying the principles of Saint Benedict at work and at home is more important than something dramatic. Long, continuous impact is far more important than striking accomplishments.
People will say ‘I never had a chance to serve’ but you don’t need to be in the military to serve. My advice? Go somewhere and interact!”
Only a few of the many, many ANSELMIANS who have devoted their careers and sacrificed their lives in the defense and protection of our nation are mentioned here. To ALL the heroic men and women who have served so that others might live in safety and peace: Portraits salutes you.
By Chip Underhill