A small ceremony was held at the home of Tom Ford, Claremont’s former fire chief and police chief, to honor him for his military service.
The ceremony is one that VNH Hospice likes to provide for patients under its care. Ford is being cared for at home by his daughter, Jacquie.
He was presented with a certificate of gratitude for his service, a gold star from a retired U.S. flag, and a copy of “Chicken Soup for the Veteran’s Soul” by members of Hospice.
Ford served in the United States Army 1954-56 as a sergeant; he was a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division. He moved to Claremont in 1982 and subsequently became its police chief and fire chief; former mayor George Caccavaro, his good friend, attended the ceremony.
Asked why he went into the military, Ford said, “There was still a draft on then. It was kind of hard to get a good job when you knew any day you could be drafted. So, a couple of my friends and I got together for a beer and we said, ‘Let’s go in the military and get it over with.’”
Ford went to jump school at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he learned to leap out of airplanes. “Good times,” he said. “But it was not a pleasurable time, because it’s so easy to be killed jumping out of planes.”
One jump that went awry saw his parachute tangled around another paratrooper. “I pulled on my second chute and it all just kind of came apart. It didn’t do what I wanted it to do.
“I came down, and it was all over,” said Ford. “The medics came out and said, ‘We’re going to get you to the hospital.”
He spent 77 days in the hospital recovering, and then they sent him back to jumping. He spent a year in Germany, too.
“I had a wonderful time,” said Ford. “Us paratroopers weren’t all that nice ... we were always into mischief.”
-- GLYNIS HART