Former Marine on ‘active duty’ with Legion Post 28’s Warrior Weekend

MILLSBORO – As a United States Marine back in the 1950s, Jim Lafferty understands the meaning of warrior.

Today, at age 82, he is active in American Legion Post 28’s Warrior Weekend program that offers relaxation and enjoyment for America’s wounded military personnel on the mend.

“When I was commander at this Post, we had somebody come in here and talk about this program. He was wanting to start something called Warrior Weekend. He initially had tried to start this at a VFW post up in Newark,” said Mr. Lafferty. “He decided he’d be better off transferring it down here in this area because of the population and also this is the largest post in the state. It’s No. 4 in the country right now.”

“I fell in love with the Warrior Weekend program, I really did,” he said. “The whole concept, or the whole idea is to get the troops that have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan out of the hospital environment for a weekend. That is what we have been doing – 10 years now. We started in 2007. We just finished our last weekend trip.”

Mr. Lafferty is a native of Philadelphia. He graduated from St. Thomas Moore high School and earned a bachelor’s of science in business from St. Joseph’s through the Philadelphia university’s evening education division.

“I got the GI Bill when I came out,” said Mr. Lafferty. “In fact, I got married first and then I went to St. Joseph’s. I graduated in 1969.”

Mr. Lafferty and his wife Maryanne moved to southern Delaware in 2000.

“We decided we were not going to retire in New Jersey, the tax capital of the world,” he said.

They have children and six grandchildren.

With Legion Post 28, Mr. Lafferty has held several offices, including post commander. He is also active in coordinating the American Legion’s volunteer effort in support of Mountaire Farms’ Thanksgiving for Thousands, which this year is on target to provide holiday meals for 8,500 needy people.

Mr. Lafferty currently serves as the American Legion Sussex District Commander.

This week’s People to Meet: Jim Lafferty.

Jim Lafferty

Any military background in your family?

“I had a couple cousins that went into the service. They were both drafted. One went in the Navy and one went in the Marine Corps.”

Your decision to enlist in the Marines?

“The reason I went into the service is because my parents were not in any kind of financial position to get me into college. So, I heard about the GI Bill. I went in the service for three years. I enlisted when I was 18.”

What was your military experience?

“They were just finishing up in Korea. I went from boot camp in Parris Island to California and then right to Japan. The plan there was they were going to put together a tank battalion and when everything was ready they would transport the tank battalion over to Korea. As things settled down in Korea, they decided, ‘You don’t have to go to Korea so you sit here in Japan.’ So, I spent almost two years in Japan, right at the foot of Mount Fuji.”

“The Marine Corps realized I wasn’t going to stay in the service, so they sent me to a little base outside of Norfolk, VA. I ended up being a court reporter. They found out I could type. I worked in the judge advocates’ office. I did that for the last year that I was in the service.”

How about your employment endeavors?

“I worked at a couple different places. I started out working at an outfit called Teledynamics in Philadelphia. Then I moved to Philco. They have a government division and all their dealings were with the federal government, the Department of Defense. Then I left there and went to Computer Sciences Corporation as a director of contracts. I left there and went to small outfit, Galaxy Scientific. I had moved to Jersey by then and I got a job there.”

“All of my working career was totally dedicated to government contracts, the industry side of the government contracts.”

How about your American Legion involvement?

“I belonged to a small post in New Jersey, but I was not active at all there. When I came down here, I had cousins who were here and belonged to this post (Post 28). They introduced me to this post. In fact, they were the main reason we moved down here. We used to come down here and visit them. And my wife and I talked, and we said, ‘We’d be fools to stay in Jersey and retire because everything you have in Jersey, they tax.’”

“I came down here to retire and shortly after I got involved with the post here. They said, ‘You know, we need you to become active; get involved here.’ So, I did. I got involved and became an officer. I moved up the ranks here and was commander for a couple of years here. … 2010-11 somewhere around there.”

Troops on the mend on a Warrior Weekend trip the NFL Studios receive helmets of their favorite football team.

Share with us a little bit about how Warrior Weekend works?

“The whole concept is the weekend is for them. It is theirs to come and enjoy and relax and have a good time. We pick them up on Friday at Fort Belvoir in Virginia and take them back on Sunday, except for the Kingston trip. For that one we pick them up on Friday and take them back on Monday. Kingston is a little town in New York. It is unbelievable the reception those troops get up there.”

“We take the troops to Philadelphia. They have been guests of the Eagles, and guests of the Phillies. We always try to get them to go through the NFL Film Studios. They give them a gorgeous tour. In fact, what they have done in the past is they have called me and said, ‘Find out what their favorite teams are, the troops that are coming.’ When they get there, they present them with an NFL official helmet of their favorite team. They have a luncheon and everything.”

“We also take them down to the battleship USS New Jersey. We take them to some of the finer restaurants. That is our main thing. We take them to top-notch restaurants. In fact, some of troops have never seen some of the items on the menus. They’ll say, ‘Jim, there is no price here.’ I say, ‘You want that; order it!’”

“I don’t know how long this will continue but I am very partial to this Warrior Weekend program because of what I have seen and enjoyment that the troops get from this program, and what it means for them to get out of the hospital for a weekend. If they don’t have a doctor’s appointment or a test scheduled or anything like that for that weekend they are sitting in their room staring at the walls. This gets them out. In fact, a couple of the officers down there have told us that this is such a benefit in their recovery process, to get out of that hospital. They have used that term: therapy.”

You have found a common bond within the ranks of Warrior Weekend troops?

“We have seen so many troops, so many young troops that have really been banged up. What fascinates me about them is they all want to get well and go back because their buddies and their outfit are still over there. They want to go back to them. They all want to go back.”

How about other outreach for veterans?

“When I was commander we started here what is called a Veterans Fund. The purpose of that was to keep the veterans’ funds out of the operating funds of the budget for the post. That way whatever money we raise would stay in that specific fund. We have built so many ramps, handicap ramps for the veterans. We have made improvements on their homes. We have bought appliances. We have fixed roofs.

“We have concerts; the Funsters, Bob Lougheed and jazz bands to support this.”

“One of the things that sometimes gets to be a problem is you’ll find out the veterans are a very proud bunch. They are not going to tell you they have a problem. So, we try to make sure other people who know veterans, and they know somebody in need please let us know because they are not going to call and say, ‘I need something.’ It has worked out well.”

U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper and Jim Lafferty at Mountaire’s 2015 Thanksgiving for Thousands packing day event.

How about a little bit about Jim Lafferty?

I used to be very heavily involved in the Mummers outfit. My daughter and I and a few of us would always go up New Year’s Day to Philadelphia and watch the parade. I was a member of the string band. I was president of the Palmyra String Band.

“I love the string band. I played the banjo in the string band and one thing about the banjo is you can’t play a sad with a banjo. It’s all happy music, all upbeat, up-tempo music.”

Are you a Philadelphia sports nut?

“I follow the Eagles but with what is going on in the NFL we have sort of shied away from the NFL. I was an Eagles fan all of my life, and a Phillies fan.

“The other sport I like is hockey. I love the Flyers. Bernie Parent was my favorite hero. I have seen Bernie parent a couple times in Wildwood.”

What else do you do with leisure time?

“We still go to the Jersey shore for vacation. We all grew up at the Jersey shore. We rent a house and for two weeks and whole gang gets together. It’s like our annual family reunion for a couple of days. We are beach nuts. We love the ocean.”

“I have fishing rods at home. They are still there. I had good intentions coming down here to go fishing but it hasn’t happened. I don’t regret it because I have been very active and keeping active helps.”

Closing thoughts?

“I don’t know how much longer I am going to be doing this but as long as I can I will. My wife Maryanne, she is my editor in chief. I do a lot of writing and letter writing for the Warrior Weekend program and I’ll print it out and say, ‘Here, check this is out for me.’ She has been so understanding and appreciative and helps with a lot of the stuff that I am involved in.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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