Clearwater Veterans Appreciation Day!

Clearwater event to honor Rose Gorga, now 107, who served as a WAC during World War II

By Terri Bryce Reeves, Times Correspondent

In Print: Thursday, November 5, 2009


  • Rose Gorga, 107, laughs with caretaker Nelly Melville. Gorga was in the Women’s Army Corps in WWII as a staff sergeant.
    [Courtesy of Rose Gorga]
    Rose Gorga received a World War II Victory Medal for her service.


    One of America’s oldest veterans will be acknowledged Saturday.

    Rose Gorga, who recently turned 107 and lives in the Loving Care Assisted Living Facility in Largo, is a World War II veteran who served in the Women’s Army Corps as a staff sergeant.

    Barring any unforeseen health problems, she will be taken to Bright House Field, where the fifth annual Clearwater Veterans Appreciation Day promises an afternoon of pomp, pageantry and patriotism.

    The free event is Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. It’s sponsored by the city of Clearwater and organized by the nonprofit Clearwater Veterans Alliance.

    “It’s a day in which veterans both past and present are given special recognition by their fellow veterans, families, children and the community at large,” said Bob Swick, president of the alliance.

    Swick is a former captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient.

    Visitors are encouraged to bring new socks (all sizes; men’s and women’s) as well as donations of nonperishable food items to benefit homeless veterans.

    “The goal is to fill up a rescue boat with socks and food,” Swick said.

    From 2 to 3 p.m., those who attend can roam around and inspect military vehicles, artillery, and Coast Guard boats. Although all branches of the military will be represented during the event, the emphasis this year is on the Coast Guard, Swick said.

    “Clearwater is petitioning to become a Coast Guard City,” he said. “There are only six in the entire United States.”

    The Coast Guard Air Station near the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is considered the largest in the nation, with the station’s C-130 Hercules and Jayhawk helicopters performing search and rescue, law enforcement, marine environmental protection and other missions.

    Ceremonies will start at 3 p.m.

    As the Navy Band Southeast plays the national anthem to an expected 8,000 visitors, members of the U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Team will leap out of a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules and unfurl a pair of flags during a free fall.

    The U.S. Coast Guard Silent Drill Team from Arlington, Va., Clearwater High School’s USMC JROTC Silent Drill Team and Admiral Farragut Academy Drill Team will perform.

    Boys and Girls Club members, Scouts, veterans groups, active military, first responders and dignitaries will also participate in the ceremonies.

    “Poolies,” or new recruits, will be inducted into the services in front of the crowd.

    “It will bring goose bumps,” Swick predicted.

    About 100 “wounded warriors” from James A. Haley VA Medical Center and VA Medical Center at Bay Pines will receive special recognition.

    Gorga helped quite a few warriors in her day — those injured in World War II — and she received a Victory Medal for her involvement.

    “She was a medical assistant who provided wound care to the troops,” said her caretaker Nelly Melville, who owns Loving Care with her son.

    Gorga, born in 1902, never married or had children and spent most of her career working for the National Park Service. She enjoyed sewing, knitting and working puzzles during her latter years.

    She loves sweets, doesn’t speak much anymore except to say her prayers, and only needs two pills a day.

    “She’s just adorable,” Melville said. “She is sweet and peaceful and is here to show us patience, kindness and courage.”

    If you go
    Clearwater Veterans Appreciation Day
    The fifth annual free event is sponsored by the city of Clearwater and organized by the nonprofit Clearwater Veterans Alliance.
    When: Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. Ceremonies begin at 3 p.m.
    Where: Bright House Field, U.S. 19 and Drew Street in Clearwater

    For more information: Visit www.cvad.org or call Clearwater Veterans Alliance at (727) 733-2822.

    Diane D. Stein
    Owner, On Top Public Relations

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