Thursday, 07 November 2019 14:08

New York State’s Disabled Veteran of the Year: Saratoga's Own, Sid Gordon

By Theresa St. John | News

Photos by Theresa St. John.

“It’s one of my favorite sayings,” Sid Gordon tells me as we sit across from each other in a corner booth at Denny’s. He’s agreed to meet me with his wife, Helen, to chat over a cup of coffee.

“Veterans need veterans to help veterans,” he nods his head up and down, spreads his arms wide open, winking at me. “The quote’s mine and it takes on more meaning every time I say it,” I watch Sid pat his wife’s hand in a comforting gesture as her eyes begin to water with emotion.

Sid Gordon serves as Chaplin of the Disabled American Veteran’s Marcelle-Nolan Chapter #158 here in New York. Helping veterans is his number one priority. “It’s our job to empower veterans to lead quality lives with respect and dignity, both of which they’ve earned through service to our great country,” this humble man with bright blue eyes says emphatically. 

I couldn’t agree more. I’m always overwhelmed with gratefulness – like so many other Americans – when I think of all the sacrifices soldiers are willing to give, to help keep us free.

“Every single soldier is owed a debt. It doesn’t matter if they fight on the front lines, take care of the wounded at military hospitals, if they clean laundry, or cook and serve our meals in the mess halls,” This giant of a man tells me. “We’re all links in the chain – if one part isn’t working, the rest of the command isn’t functioning at 100%.”

This chapter of DAV serves Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties, with a clear mission – to help every veteran in need, pointing them in the right direction, toward services available to them and their families. 

Sid often performs Chaplin duties at civic events and veteran funerals. The blessings he reads in honor of each hero are all penned by him. 

Gordon was a member of the military police in Osaka, Japan. A soldier of the 17th Army 25th Mechanized Cavalry Room Special Forces, Sid worked on creating maps along the coastline of Shikoku Island, about 20-30 miles off Japan’s mainland.

He also served post-atomic bomb Hiroshima from 1946-1948. “When Emperor Hirohito came out of seclusion, I was tasked with guarding him,” Sid sighs heavily. Helen places her hand on his arm and begins to weep. After a moment, she looks me in the eye, wiping her own with a tissue. “I’m so proud of this man.”    

“While it’s true that WWII was over, there remained many areas where the Japanese didn’t want to surrender,” he says in a solemn voice. “They were ready to die – it didn’t matter that the war had ended. These were Kamikaze pilots – part of the Japanese Special Attacks Unit of military aviators trained to initiate suicide attacks, usually aimed at Allied naval ships.”

In Florida and Vermont, Gordon worked delivering a military magazine, Bivouac Veteran’s News, to veteran homes and other organizations. “Seeing the happy smiles each time I delivered a new issue made me so happy. If I can help a vet and they thank me, I feel so whole inside – it’s as if they’re my ‘charging plate,’ they keep me going.”

Sid was an ‘assistant scoutmaster’ during the early 50s. He remembers two young men that were under his watch of Troop 50. Michael Dugan – who later became General of the US Airforce, and Larry Gordon, his nephew – who served 32 years as County Planner for Saratoga.

When asked what he did as assistant scoutmaster, Sid laughs. “Well, I hollered at the guys, taught them procedures, how to tie a knot, tried to guide them in the right direction – so they’d live a good life, be a great person.”

In 1999 he covered the Travers Day races for a paper in Maryland. Although he had a good camera, it didn’t have the long, heavy lens that other photographers were carrying around, which worked in his favor.

Lemon-Drop Kid won the Travers that day. “I got the photo – just reached up over everyone’s head, pointed and caught the moment,” he says, grinning at the memory.

The couple has six children and ten grandkids. They hold up a letter one of their grandchildren wrote. “It’s important for the younger generations to learn things that have been tossed by the wayside.” 

“This is from Zion, our ten-year-old grandson,” Helen tells me. “He’s practicing cursive writing because his grandfather believes it’s important.” 

And that’s the thing – military heroes are people just like you and me. They have hopes and dreams, just like the rest of us. They meet a girl, date a guy, fall in love, get married. They do ordinary, everyday things.

It’s their love of country – their willingness to do whatever it takes to keep our country free – that makes them extraordinary.

The day after I met with Sid and Helen, he phoned. He was very excited. I stood by the fax machine and then read a letter he’d just received. It was from the New York State Senate – specifically  Senator Daphne V. Jordan, 43rd Senate District.

In a legislative proclamation, she lists his commitment and dedication, his exemplary contributions to the community, noting his years of service, exposure to the nuclear fallout and damage to his eardrum. The senator speaks to his duties as Chaplain, how he embodies the spirit of the DAV’s mission to empower veterans to live high-quality lives with respect and dignity. 

The proclamation states she is ‘justly proud to honor Sid Gordon.’ 

So are we, sir. So are we.

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