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The News-Times November 11, 2005

Legion color guard helps bring veterans together

By Eileen FitzGerald

Earl Wilmott was 17 when he joined the Army in 1950. He toughed out being one of the smaller guys, developed respect for men from varied backgrounds and learned discipline.

And he saw places in the world he's not sure he ever would have seen otherwise.

Now, the 67-year-old Danbury resident is active as a veteran. He belongs to the color guard of American Legion Post 60 in Danbury, where he attends monthly meetings and color guard practice twice a month.

"I do this for an esprit de corps and to be recognized by the city," Wilmott said. "Veterans are still playing a big part in the citizenship of the town."

He wants to stay connected to other veterans.

"We tell stories. We all remember the good times. We don't remember the bad times," Wilmott said.

Wilmott enlisted with some friends from his hometown of Norwalk. After completing his basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., he was sent to Augsburg, Germany, as a member of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

"We were on the Czech border patrol. We'd spend 12 hours on and 12 hours off, seven days a week. We were worried that the Russians would cross into Germany from the Czech border," he said.

During the Cold War era, the regiment was responsible for surveillance of almost 500 miles along the Iron Curtain.

Its section included the border separating West and East Germany, as well as the entire West Germany-Czechoslovakia border, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

"Winters were tough. Once it snowed, we didn't see the ground again until April," Wilmott said.

But there were some good times. "Like being in Germany and being able to go to Paris," he said. "We went places you'd never be able to go if you weren't in the military."

Wilmott, who has a wife, two children and two grandchildren, left the Army when he was 21. He spent 31 years as a firefighter with the Norwalk Fire Department, retired in 1988 and moved to Danbury in 2001.

Seeing children honor veterans makes him feel good.

"It makes me feel very good to see young children think about veterans," he said Thursday. "They think they are safe because veterans did their part.

Copyright 2005, The News-Times