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
The XGDF Association NY concluded its 30th Anniversary Celebrations with their Annual Black & White Evening of Elegance held on Saturday October 15, 2016 at Antun’s in Queens.
Saturday 1st April turned out to be quite the community affair when XGDF of NY hosted its annual Breakfast Morning at the Wally Griffith Hall on Rockaway Blvd in Queens.
Firstly, there was the content of the breakfast itself; Pepperpot, Saltfish & Bake, Smoked Herring, Fried Cassava, Fried Yellow Plantain, etc, etc, washed down with Mauby and other familiar drinks.
Then there was Jeggae, providing live calypso music; background at first, but then more and more insistent, intended to ward off the sleepy excesses of the aforementioned meal by inducing the hip shaking body swaying responses to the drum that is as ancient as Africa itself.
Lastly, XGDF used this occasion to once again involve our immediate neighbors in South Ozone Park by inviting the young Guyanese candidate now engaged in campaigning for a seat on the City Council, Mr. Richard David, to attend and address the gathering. This visit was facilitated by XGDF member Patrick Stephens who made the introduction of the special guest. Mr. Richard David in his speech stressed the importance of having a largely immigrant community represented at all levels of government, by persons of its own choosing. To register its concern for and empathy with the victims of a devastating fire on Liberty Ave in March, the President of the XGDF of NY used this occasion to present a cheque for $500 to a young community activist Ms. Faudia Baijnauth, who was part of the candidate’s delegation. Everyone expressed the hope that the victims, especially the young children involved, would soon recover from this tragedy and move on to a secure and comfortable life.
On Sunday 12th March the XGDF of NY played host to former soldiers of the Women’s Army Corp of the Guyana Defence Force in the tri-state area as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of their unit.
The day’s events commenced with a church service officiated by the Reverends Calvin Clarke and Linda Juene, both ex-soldiers of the GDF.
Reverend Clarke is now our association’s chaplain, and pastor of the Canarsie Community Reformed Church in Brooklyn where, not for the first time, the XGDF of NY has been privileged to join the congregation in worship.
Reverend Juene, granted leave from her own church, travelled from Maryland to celebrate with us, and fit right in among her former comrades recalling her soldier days in graphic language even as she delivered the sermon on biblical account of fighting women in ancient Israel.
Rev. Linda Juene
Flag bearers: (L to R)June Barrington Seaforth-King, Linda Darrell, Naiomi Greaves and Cheryl Baynes
Every seat in the church was occupied. Besides ex female soldiers and their families we also appreciated the turnout of a variety of notable persons among whom were Guyana Government Ministers Ms. Volda Lawrence and Ms. Amna Ally who took time out from a heavily scheduled official visit to New York to be with us. Also visiting as an official representative of the GDF was Lt. Col. Loraine Foster presently serving as GSO1, resplendent in her No. 2 Dress uniform. From the New York political establishment, we were graced with the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Lyndon D Williams, Legislator of Westchester County, and representatives of State Senator Roxanne Persaud and State Assemblywoman Michele Titus. Notable among ex-soldiers paying their respects to the WAC veterans were Lt. Cols Fabian and Hartley Liverpool, and Capt. Aubrey Featherstone accompanied by his wife Hazeline. Various sister and affiliate organizations were also in attendance including Ingrid Ifill representing the Ex- Soldiers of Canada; Patrick Stephens representing the Queens College Alumni Association of America; as well as delegations from the Guyana Ex-Police Association of America and Guyana Ex-Prison Officers of America.
Member Gwen Fredericks who was one of the original members of the first intake in 1967, who would rise through the ranks to become the first female NCO to be commissioned, travelled from Georgia to celebrate with us (as did Linda Darrell from North Carolina) and set the tone for what would turn out to be a joyous day of remembrance and thanksgiving. Gwen addressed the gathering on a brief history of the WAC, choosing to relay events from her perspective, and as only a soldier could do delivered a most hilarious account of the trials, tribulations a triumphs of herself and her squad-mates and later her charges and subordinates.
W/Ex-Captain Gwen Fredericks
After the Church Service, the congregation was invited to the Wally Griffith Hall of the XGDF Association for a reception. The GDF representative took this opportunity to present some of the ex-female soldiers with 50th anniversary medals kindly issued by the Chief of Staff Brig. Patrick West. In return the XGDF of NY expressed appreciation for her visit and expressed the hope that sooner rather than later a female soldier would achieve the honor of being appointed as Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force.
Lt. Col. Lorraine Foster presenting Women’s Army Corps Military Commemoration Medal to W/Ex-Captain Gwen Fredericks
At the reception different generations of WAC members mingled, caught up with old comrades, all in an atmosphere of light banter and reminiscence especially for those that have departed.
The large contingent of male ex-soldiers present also had a wonderful time, but this day was given over to celebration of the achievements of the members of the Women’s Army Corps.
Some of the male members showing their support
As part of their 49th Anniversary Celebrations, The Guyana Ex-Police Association of America held its anniversary church service on Sunday May 1, 2016 at the at St Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn.
Five members of the XGDF Association of NY attended the church service and later joined the Ex-Police members for a reception at their hall.
The five members were L to R: Simon Thomas, Joseph Glasgow, Sandra Fraser-Thomas, Naomi Greaves and President Lennox Pyle.
Submitted by Sandra Fraser-Thomas