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On Watch ceremony honors veterans


Solomons, MD - A crowd that included several residents of Charlotte Hall Veterans Home gathered Sunday, Nov. 5 on a parcel overlooking Solomons Harbor for the annual On Watch Memorial Service. While the occasion is solemn the ceremony also celebrates Armed Forces veterans from every branch and recognizes their service. The theme of the ceremony was “Honoring the veterans of the past by supporting our service men and women of today.”

“On Watch” is the name of the bronze statue that prominently stands overlooking the harbor where the U.S. Navy conducted training operations during World War II. Sculptor Antonio Tobias “Toby” Mendez created the bronze image of a sailor on duty. The work was unveiled during the summer of 2007.

The ceremony began with an invocation by Navy Chaplain Tristen Engle of Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS PAX) and the presentation of colors by the NAS PAX River Honor Guard. Towson University student and St. Leonard resident Katie Wilding sang the Star Spangled Banner.

The master of ceremonies, Bruce Newell of the Calvert Marine Museum (CMM) Board of Governors, noted that he was a veteran and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He also touted CMM’s role in preserving Southern Maryland’s World War II history. Newell pointed out that the Navy took over Solomons Harbor shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Calvert County Commissioners’ Vice President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. brought greetings from the board and noted that the Tri-County panel focused on veterans’ issues has been working diligently to get an outpatient clinic for the region’s veterans. “It’s been a real challenge in a lot of ways,” said Slaughenhoupt, adding that there is finally a request for proposal for the project. The facility, he said, would be located in the Charlotte Hall area. Slaughenhoupt also announced that Maryland Department of Transportation officials are planning to allocate funding to provide a bus route to connect Prince Frederick and Charlotte Hall, which will aid Calvert residents who are veterans, need medical services but don’t have transportation. 

The event’s guest speaker was retired Navy Admiral Steve Abbot, who noted 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S.’ entry into World War I, a conflict that saw more American deaths than the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. Abbot stated that while so many people thank veterans for their service, they can do something even more significant. “Ask them about their service,” said Abbot. “No veteran forgets what he was doing when he was wearing the uniform.”

Abbot also urged the audience to research veteran support organizations before making monetary contributions. That information was somewhat timely since the following day news reports stated an Illinois-based nonprofit agency called “VietNow” announced its dissolution in order to settle a civil suit. Published reports from several news sources indicated the organization claimed to help veterans obtain jobs and deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, an investigation revealed that 80 percent of the proceeds the organization collected from donors were used to pay professional telemarketers.

Abbot did not specifically mention any organization that was not worthy of financial support from the public.

A wreath-laying ceremony was held at the base of the statue, led by retired Maryland state senator Bernie Fowler, a World War II veteran.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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