PAWTUCKET — Veterans Day is just around the corner, but Lance Robinson, a retired Marine from Export, Pennsylvania, thinks another occasion is needed to reach out to a younger generation of military veterans who don't feel connected to the national holiday.
Robinson, 53, a Vietnam veteran, is taking it upon himself to walk to 48 state capitals in an effort to have Sept. 10 declared national “Brother to Brother Day.” He said his intent is to have Sept. 10 become a “day of recognition” in which all military veterans would don their uniforms and go out into the community to salute one another and be a visible reminder of their contribution to the country.
Robinson said he began thinking about the concept last August, after he walked 300 miles to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, D.C. He also visited the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During this trip, he said he met and spoke with many younger members of the military or those who had completed recent tours of duty who told him they did not feel any connection with Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
This newer generation of veterans, Robinson said, seems to feel it is not getting the recognition or respect that was bestowed on those who served in earlier wars. Another problem, he maintained, is that schools don't teach students about the U.S. military efforts of the more recent past.
Robinson said the idea for Brother to Brother Day came to him on Sept. 10, and he decided to begin his walking journey to spread the word. He asks the mayors and municipal leaders in the cities and towns where he stops for proclamations in support of his cause, with the intent to have Brother to Brother Day become formally accepted as a national day of recognition. He said that while he realizes there are many female military personnel and veterans, he adopted the term from World War II's “Band of Brothers” and said he hasn't heard from any women who have taken offense. “It's just a moniker,” he said.
Robinson said he only takes transportation when the walking is dangerous or the weather is inclement. He began his trek at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., then walked to Annapolis and on to Wilmington, Del. He has since made it to New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. “God has put this in my heart. He has called me to serve,” said Robinson. He added that, “The Lord chose Sept. 10—the eve of destruction.” (referring to the Sept. 11 , 2001 terrorist attacks.)
Robinson arrived in Pawtucket on Friday, where he met with Mayor James E. Doyle and representatives of local Marine Corps Leagues. He received a proclamation from the mayor in support of his cause. Outside City Hall, he parked the cart that he pulls along his journey that features a banner reading “Marine Marching to Honor our Troops” and flags from all branches of the U.S. Military.
On Thursday, he had stopped in Providence to meet with Mayor David Cicilline and some local veterans groups, and on Saturday, he will leave City Hall in Pawtucket at 2 p.m. to continue his walk to Massachusetts and Boston. A rally has been planned in front of City Hall with Rhode Island's Legion Riders, who will escort him by motorcycle to the Massachusetts state line.
Mayor James E. Doyle posed for photos with Robinson and told him what he was doing was “awesome.” He added, “I think it's a fabulous idea to have a day for veterans where they can meet and greet each other and be recognized by members of the community.”
Korean War Veteran Joseph Chasse, Commandant of the Bucci-Atwood Detachment Marine Corps League, who was on hand to meet Robinson, agreed with his idea. “I talk with a lot of young people, and the schools are not teaching the history and geography like they used to, especially about the previous wars. There are a lot who don't even know there was a Korean War,” he said.
Vietnam Veteran Gary Rodenbaugh, a Pawtucket resident who is Sergeant-at-Arms for the Bucci Atwood Detachment Marine Corps League, also said he thought “such a day is needed for everybody that's coming back right now.” He agreed that younger people do not get a proper education about U.S. military history, but added that the Boy Scouts organization is one that is trying to make a difference in this area.
Marine Veteran Jane Deptula, Commandant of the Kent County Detachment Marine Corps League, also agreed with the concept of Brother to Brother Day. “I think the day is important because the veterans deserve the recognition. They signed on the dotted line and sometimes with their life,” she noted. She added, “Young people should know more about those who have served. The education is lacking.”
Robinson said that he relies on donations to help support his journey. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by visiting his website: http://brothertobrotherday.webs.com .