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Old 08-06-2009, 04:05 AM
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Legion Post Renamed in Marine's Honor

By Kurt Rentmeester • Kewaunee County News • August 5, 2009

Several town of Carlton residents gathered Sunday afternoon to honor a veteran who died 42 years ago in Vietnam, whose memory lives on among local military personnel, as well as family and friends who still remember him.

"I didn't know him personally. He would have been my age," recalled Norb Zelewski, chaplain of Carlton Legion Post 538, which became Robinson Legion Post 538 Carlton in memory of Lance Cpl. Gerald Arden Robinson.

Robinson was drafted by the Marines, going to Camp Pendleton near San Diego and Camp Polk in Louisiana before being sent to South Vietnam. He died a year later, on May 16, 1967, from sniper gunfire.

Mike Witzpalek, second commander of the post, said Robinson's father, Otto Robinson, 89, contacted the post a year ago to display the flag that had been used to cover Jerry's casket.

Among Jerry's nine living siblings, none wanted to be the only one responsible for keeping the flag, which had been displayed for more than 40 years in Otto's home.

Carlton Post member Rick Phillips did some of the legwork by computer to rename the post. Eventually, Witzpalek said the post decided to rename the building in Jerry Robinson's honor.

In addition to his flag, a photo of Jerry and the pins he received from the Marines and the South Vietnamese government are displayed on the wall at the hall.

"Once we got the flag, we said 'yes, we'll be honored to have his flag,' then we decided to rename the post Robinson Post 538," Witzpalek said.

Robinson is the only serviceman from the town of Carlton who was killed on duty, said Joe Cherney, who is the commander of the 92-member Robinson Post 538 Carlton.

Sunday's ceremony also marked the first time in several years that a post was named in someone's honor, he said.

"We're kind of proud to do this. It's kind of an honor for us and for the family," Cherney said.

Family members were thrilled by the family and friends who appeared.

Jerry Robinson's brother, Dale, was in eighth grade when his brother was killed. He remembered that Jerry returned home once in 1966, but couldn't visit again because of an airline strike.

Jerry was 20 years old when he was killed. On the day he died, 15 other Marines also were killed.

Jerry was born on Aug. 3, 1946, the third of 11 children, to Otto and the late Lucille Robinson.

The family owned a farm, and Dennis Robinson, Jerry's younger brother, remembered everything was done by hand with a fork and shovel by Otto and his son. They had 24 cows.

Still, Jerry and his brothers found time to enjoy deer hunting and fishing, Dennis recalled. A 1965 Kewaunee High School graduate, Jerry also enjoyed baseball and basketball in the evening after the chores.

He was drafted in 1966 by the Marine Corps and shipped to the Third Division. From there, he entered basic training in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Why did it take 42 years to decide to honor Jerry Robinson? Phillips isn't sure. But the time seemed right to rename the Robinson Legion Post 538 Carlton.

After being drafted, his sister, Donna Thompson-Krohn, said her brother never would have considered dodging his military duty. It just wasn't part of their family's values.

His father still lives next door to the family farm, located a couple miles from the town hall and post building. He was there with his twin sister, Lucy Seidl.

"He was a sensible kid," Otto Robinson recalled with tears in his eyes. "He was drafted, and they picked him because he was built. He was a good kid."
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