ODESSA – Rick Aubin, a watchmaker from New York has retired to Delaware to be with family and to train veterans in his highly specialized skill at the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative in Odessa.
Training of the first six students from Delaware and several other states will begin after a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, September 13, at 10 a.m., according to school founder Sam Cannan, a master watchmaker who trained in Switzerland.
Mr. Cannan, a former Baltimore police officer, moved to Kitts Hummock nine years ago. Since then he has spent a great deal of time working to establish a facility to train disabled military veterans, whose unemployment rate is a dismal 82 percent.
Mr. Aubin, a veteran of the Vermont Air National Guard, trained at the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking in 1971 in Queens, NY, which eventually closed as a result of the advent of quartz watch technology in the 1970s and 80s.
Since then, however, mechanical watches have been enjoying a world-wide resurgence and new professionals are urgently needed. The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative, unique in the nation, will help fill that need by training disabled veterans.
Mr. Aubin’s more than 4 decades as a watchmaker includes work for an uncle’s jewelry store until the uncle retired and independent work for numerous stores throughout New England until his wife’s career led him to New York and additional training at Rolex, Omega, and Cartier.
“My retirement to Delaware allows us to be closer to our daughters and their families and to contribute to the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative as a volunteer instructor. It is my privilege to give back to those who have served our country.”
The Odessa location is the forerunner of a planned school in Middletown, Del., that will accommodate as many as 25 students. “Disabled veterans will be housed, fed and trained at no cost to them. That’s the least we can do for those who gave so much,” said Mr. Cannan.
“That others may live,” was the slogan of the UH-1 Dustoff helicopter crews who flew into firefights to rescue the wounded in Vietnam. That slogan and heroism has been passed down to today’s medical evacuation crews who serve in harm’s way across the globe.
The Vietnam Dustoff Association is coming to Dover for their September 21-23 national convention. They will hosted by Kent County Chapter 850, Vietnam Veterans of America.
They have special meaning to Joe Startt Jr., Chapter 850 president, who will never forget his own lifesaving ride after being wounded in Vietnam in 1969.
“I remember being told to hold on, help was on the way. In less than 15 minutes the ‘whop, whop, whop’ was like an angel’s voice telling me I’d survive. The UH-1 Huey on display at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park serves as an ongoing reminder of their heroism,” he said.
Paul Davis, vice president of Chapter 850, worked for two years with the federal government and even the White House to secure the helicopter. That was followed by a road trip caravan to Florida by Joe Startt and other members of the chapter to pick it up with the help of a trucking company sympathetic to veterans.
One of the highlights will be a Friday, September 22, 7 p.m., dinner hosted by the chapter at the Modern Maturity Center and followed by several events the next day.
Saturday’s agenda will include a special 10 a.m. ceremony at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park on S. Little Creek Road in Dover where crew members will be honored, followed by lunch at the Dover AFB dining facility where the Dustoff crews with be greeted by representatives of the 436th Airlift wing and some of today’s airmen. A special tour of the AMC Museum will follow.
“These men, several thousand of whom paid the ultimate price saving lives in Vietnam,” are our brothers who traded their tomorrow for our today,” said Mr. Startt. “We will always honor and revere them.”
The $35 plated dinner will be open to the public on a first-come first-served basis. The cutoff date is September 15. “Sponsorships are also available to help with the costs of honoring these heroes,” said Paul Davis, VVA State Council president. For tickets or sponsorship opportunities, call 302-697-8384 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.