Outreach honors military at service 'God Bless America' celebration may become an annual worship event

July 08, 1996|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

The Independence Day observance of about 100 active and retired military personnel extended to their morning worship service yesterday.

The Greater Grace World Outreach in East Baltimore dedicated its church service not only to praising God -- but also the men and women who have served in the country's military branches, in its "God Bless America" celebration.

The first such celebration by the church may become an annual program, like the church's services saluting firefighters and police officers, said Assisting Pastor Joseph J. Vecchiolla.

"We always try to reach different parts of the community," he said.

Invitations for the event were sent to 7,000 active and retired military personnel in the Baltimore metropolitan area, he added.

For the 100 or so -- many of whom donned their military uniforms -- who joined the 2,000-member congregation for Sunday service, the service had plenty of patriotic-themed songs and prayers.

For Laureat Caron, a church member who briefly was held captive in the Philippines during World War II, the service took an unexpected turn when he was given a plaque for his distinguished military career.

"I wish they would have found somebody else to honor," said Caron, 72, of Fallston. "I don't feel that I deserve this."

Caron, who served as a combat engineer in the Army, was captured with two dozen men during one of 27 military invasions in the Pacific he participated in. But he almost instantly freed himself and all but one of the men using a wire cutter hidden in his socks.

He received a Bronze Star for his feat.

"It happened 50 years ago," he said. "I'm just happy I'm around."

Pub Date: 7/08/96

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