Jennie Rehnberg: A Daughter of the American Revolution honors New Milford veterans
When Jennie Rehnberg realized that she was more than just a “student” of American history, but a part of it, she decided to do something about it.
She joined several organizations, including the Daughters of the American Revolution, after she learned that she was related to more than 20 Revolutionary War veterans. Then she started looking for ways she could honor veterans, she said.
Her goal to honor those who have served led her to push for her most ambitious project yet: She, and the DAR, plan to bring The Wall That Heals, a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to New Milford in late October.
“Some veterans never got a chance to visit the wall,” she said. “So we’re bringing it to them.”
Q: You became involved in the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1997. What spurred you to join the organization?
For me, it is personal; I have had a family member serve our country in every war since the American Revolution War. My father Hank Morsey served in World War II attached to the 101st Airborne Division and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 19, 1944. He would remain a POW until the end of the war when he was repatriated in June of 1945. My son Christopher Rehnberg, U.S. Army Ranger retired, also served in the military for 10 years.
My father died in 1988 and my mother, Pauline Allen, died in 1994. It was after my mother’s death that I began to wonder who I was.
That question led me to a life of discovery through genealogy. I was astounded to discover I descended from 23 patriots who aided in the cause of this great Republic during the Revolutionary War, most of them are from New Milford and surrounding towns.
Knowing I descended from patriots of the American Revolution had a profound impact on me. I decided to join the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution because I wanted to honor the memory and sacrifices of my Revolutionary War patriots.
Q: You have two relatives who served in the Vietnam war. What does the wall mean to you?
My cousin Mark Morsey and my brother-in-law Jon Rehnberg both served in the Vietnam War. The Wall That Heals is a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam War Memorial. One of the great joys of being an executive officer was having the enormous privilege of attending very moving ceremonies. In June, we washed The Wall, and the executive committee greeted 500 Nebraska Vietnam Veterans to Washington, D.C. It was an honor to present each Vietnam Veteran with a special Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin and to thank them on behalf of a grateful nation for their service and sacrifice. Many hugs and tears flowed freely.
For several of these men it was their first trip to Washington, D.C. to see the Vietnam War Memorial.. For me, The Wall represents more than names etched into black granite; it represents those who served and sacrificed for their country. It exemplifies service, courage, faith, love, and heroism of men and women who answered our Nation’s call.
Q: This is the third, and final year of New Milford’s Roger Sherman DAR chapter’s involvement in the 50th Anniversary Vietnam Veterans Commemoration. What has Roger Sherman chapter done up until now?
The Roger Sherman Chapter became a commemorative partner of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War with the goal to coordinate programs and activities to assist the Department of Defense in thanking and honoring our Vietnam Veterans and their families. The chapter has hosted a “welcome home breakfast” and presented certificates of appreciation for the past two years on Veterans Day. In 2015 the chapter was given special Lapel Pins to present to the Vietnam Veterans. Our dear friend, the late Peter Orenski, was instrumental in assisting the chapter in honoring Vietnam Veterans by designing and donating 100 special 50th anniversary Vietnam War Veterans medals. The chapter presented over 75 medals on the Town Green on Veterans’ Day in 2014, and 45 medals in 2015 to Vietnam Veterans. Orenski also designed the special The Wall That Heals, New Milford 2-inch medallion, which is being sold to raise funds for The Wall.
In June 2015, the chapter honored and recognized four Gold Star Mothers who lost their sons during the Vietnam War. Mary Kight’s son Michael was killed on May 19, 1967. Midge Ferry lost her son Ray Leonard Ferry III, on April 9, 1968. Frances McCann lost her son Patrick Carney, on Feb. 27, 1969. and Althea McLellan lost her son Arthur C. McLellan on March 31, 1968.
Q: For this third year, you and the DAR are bringing up The Wall That Heals, a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. How did this come together? What did it take to get the wall on its way up to New Milford?
Any organization can apply to host The Wall That Heals and traveling education center by filling out the appropriate request form. Two years ago, I approached my Chapter Regent Judy Messer and Mayor Pat Murphy about the idea of bringing The Wall to New Milford. After receiving their blessings, I contacted The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Founders of The Wall and asked if the Roger Sherman Chapter could host The Wall.
Last January, I reached out to key organizations and individuals within our community and asked them to serve on The Wall That Heals, New Milford Committee. I have been blessed to work alongside dedicated individuals who are committed to ensuring The Wall That Heals in New Milford is successful.
I couldn’t do it alone. I would like to thank the following: the town of New Milford, Mayor David Gronbach, Kathy Shemeley, Jeff McBreairty, Andrew B. Mygatt, Jim Delancy, Debbie Devaux, Bonnie Butler, Katy Francis, Jolene Mullen, Judy Messer, and Stephanie, Christopher and H. Chris Rehnberg, Bonnie Blackman, Peter Mullen, John Norcorss, and Peter Orenski.
I also greatly appreciate the assistance of the New Milford Garden Club, who has offered to handle all planting around The Wall, and to the Connecticut Patriot’s Guard who will be escorting The Wall to New Milford.
Q: This will be the first time the wall has been in Litchfield County, what do you think New Milford’s veterans will think of it?
I hope in some small measure The Wall offers some healing to those who served, and encourages them to open up to their families, their friends and their community. Millions of Americans, young and old, have not been able to visit what has become know to many as “The Wall” in D.C. Some haven’t been able to make the journey, for various reasons and many others may find the war’s legacy easier to confront while at home in their communities.
Q: What do you hope the wall will bring to New Milford? How does the town remember it’s veterans? Do you think The Wall’s temporary presence will change how the town thinks?
I hope our community visits The Wall and joins a grateful Nation to thank and honor our Vietnam Veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice. I hope everyone will pause to remember and honor those who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. I encourage those who visit The Wall to select a name from The Wall, and learn more about that individual. I would love to see our community reach out and touch a name, or a symbol.
Our country is truly blessed to have members of our communities who willingly give of themselves to ensure our freedoms as imaged by our forefathers. The men and women who serve in our Armed Forces are committed to protecting our nation.
The legacy of the long and costly conflict lives on through the veterans who came home and the families of those who did not. Our society cannot forget those great sacrifices nor the values those veterans exemplified through their service and heroism.
The words of George Washington’s sentiment echo strongly in my heart.
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation,” he said.
Q: How can people become involved in The Wall project?
A project of this magnitude takes many volunteers. This event is a community wide event and will take many additional volunteers once The Wall arrives. I invite the public to visit www.thewallnewmilford.org to volunteer, donate or become a sponsor, purchase the special medallion, place an ad, honor a loved who served in any war, and to view the schedule of events.