XGDF of NY President Lennox Pyle led a large delegation of members to attend observance of the 9th anniversary of the West Indian Ex-Service Men and Women’s Assoc, which was hosted by the Pastor, Rev. Canon Sylvester Taylor, and Congregation of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in the community of East New York on Sunday 10th September 2017.
Among our members in attendance were Cheryl Tappin (IPP), Cheryl Fraser, Naomi Greaves, Grace LaRoche, Rev. Calvin Clark, Mohamed Yusuff, David Anderson, Hartley Liverpool, Arthur King, Maxwell Hinds, Philip Fraser, David Grimmond, and Neil Tyrell.
Our participation was facilitated by The Rev. Dr. Randolph Bourne, formerly of the Barbados Regt., who is well known to XGDF members for his family’s attendance at our functions.
Our delegation enjoyed an elaborate religious ceremony complete with Last Post, Reveille, and the Laying of a Wreath at the Alter. We were also witness to the Procession of the Flags of the various Caribbean territories which once made up the West Indies Federation and hence the West India Regiment of 1958 -1962, where all of the current members of the West Indian Ex-service Association served before being dispersed to their respective national Defence Forces upon the dissolution of the regiment in 1962.
Although Guyana did not join the Federation or formally send recruits to the regiment ( we along with Belize maintained observer status throughout its life), our flag was included in the procession along with that of the Bahamas, Belize and the United States of America. We were further recognized by fond remembrance of the late GDF Warrant Officer Henry Blackett who began his military career with the West India Regt., and was a contemporary of some of the current members of Ex-Service Men and Women’s Association.
XGDF members and friends in New York marked the 31st year of our existence as an association with a simple Church Service conducted by our chaplain, the Rev. Calvin Clarke on Sunday 4th June 2017 at the Wally B Griffith Hall in South Ozone Park, Queens.
This year our special guests were Captain (ret’d) Aubrey Featherstone and his wife Hazeline. Also in attendance was Lt. Col. (ret’d) Fabian Liverpool who resides in Guyana.
Capt. Featherstone, who accomplished many firsts in the fledgling GDF of 51 years ago, was invited to address the gathering. He highlighted the superiority of brain power over brawn when applied to humans overcoming obstacles and solving problems.
Immediately after this year’s service a delegation of members led by the Chaplain and IPP Cheryl Tappin journeyed to Brooklyn to attend the funeral rites for the son of Member Felix Payne.
In March of 1976 I was privileged to lead a detachment of soldiers on a classified training mission. The mission was very successful, but there was one casualty, – Cpl Peter Groomes -, a fit and exemplary soldier who departed this life, during that mission.
In December of 1976, most of the members of that detachment were tasked with hacking a way into the Timehri jungle, off the Linden Highway, on a mission to locate a site and build a base, to house their own fledgling unit – soon to be named Support Weapons Command.
These two exercises were accomplished with much blood, sweat and tears promoting a camaraderie and team spirit that molded the men and women who were involved, into a tightly knit professional unit.
It was with unanimous agreement, that the encampment was named Camp Groomes, in honor of our fallen comrade, Peter Groomes.
The accidental destruction of Camp Groomes on 18 December, 2000, with the loss of three lives and serious injuries to many fellow soldiers, was a misfortune unlike any other to occur in the GDF… ever. That event truly stunned us all.
It is against that backdrop, that I felt a resurgence of deep hurt, disappointment and shock when the recent Kaieteur News article of 13 June 2017, came to my attention.
It is amazing, to say the least, that after 17 years and a BOI as recent as two years ago, the affected soldiers have not yet been satisfactorily compensated and protected. It is also very disappointing that after resumed efforts of the Guyana Legion, in early 2016, and a COI of 2016/2017, no satisfactory resolution of the matter has been forthcoming.
While, in my partisan view, little was expected of the previous government, surely this government, this coalition government, a government led by many of our peers and fellow veterans, should be well inclined and motivated to take care of its natural constituents, veterans in general, and these veterans who put their lives on the line for their country.
While I respect the efforts that may have been made to secure the future well- being of these victims so far, the fact of the matter is, that this is no way to treat veterans who have served honorably and made sacrifices. The mission has, obviously, not been accomplished. No slothful bureaucracy should be allowed to prolong such injustice.
Camp Groomes holds a very, very special place in my heart. The story surrounding ‘the birth and death’ of Camp Groomes was a unique experience for the officers and ranks who lived it. It was the impetus, for the distinguished accomplishments of the unit, Support Weapons Command, that I had the privilege of leading, from 1976 to 1979.
I perceive this state of affairs to be gravely unjust and I am compelled to urge that we, as veterans, officers and ranks, do everything within our power to push this cause as, just and politic, in relief of these dead, wounded and hurt veterans.
I have initiated a “Camp Groomes Initiative” to raise funds and provide some interim relief to the victims of this unresolved tragedy. The goal is to raise 5,000 (US) … (1 Million Guy) …by 1 December 2017.
I am setting this initiative rolling with a modest contribution of $500.00 (US).
I humbly ask for your contribution and support of this effort, in whatever way you can, including the circulation of this letter, to other veterans.
Concerned Veteran of Camp Groomes and the GDF – 917-301-1257
For more information or to make a contribution, you may also call or email:
Please click on the link