PEPPERELL — Sailors refer to the ships that protect them from harm as “her” or “she,” and pilots do so with their aircrafts, but to the married soldier there is only one “she”: the United States Army wife.
On Saturday, May 13, a plaque will be dedicated in memory of Joan Y. Delia, the late wife of retired Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Delia, and all Army wives in a ceremony at the Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, N.H.
Delia, of Shattuck Street, is master of ceremonies. Dignitaries include Chaplain Maj. Robert Brady, of the 94th Regional Support Command; retired Staff Sgt. John Hipson, of the New England regimental commander of the Combat Infantrymen’s Association; and Lt. Col. Caryn Heard, commander of Devens Reserve Forces Training Area.
The ceremony will take place during the annual re-dedication of the 101st Airborne Division and Combat Infantrymen’s plaques at the cathedral.
Both plaques were installed with the involvement of Delia, who was command sergeant major of Devens from 1973 to 1978 and served two tours of duty with the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea — 1950 to 1951 — and a tour with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam — 1969 to 1970. He was one of the first in the Army promoted to the rank after it was created in 1968 — sergeant major was created in 1958.
”The Army wife has the toughest job in the Army,” Delia said. “They take care of all the stuff when you’re not there, family and household and all the emotional necessities. Soldiering is a cakewalk by comparison.”
His wife, Joan, was a dental hygienist in Germany who, Delia said, saved the Army thousands of dollars. She also sat on the Devens commissary board of directors and worked with Boy Scouts, washing and cleaning their uniforms.
”She and I talked about doing something for Army wives. She always said, ‘I suppose some day you will do something,’” Delia said.
He purchased the granite plaque to be presented and another he donated to the Devens Museum. He plans to continue his involvement with the burgeoning museum. The Delia’s have four children — Robin, Kimberly, Bruce and Terry — none of whom have served in the military.
”Army wives never get the credit,” Delia said. “They are absolutely amazing. If they got paid for what they’re worth they’d make more than us soldiers.”
As with any husband of 51 years and thousands of soldiers with little time with their spouses have learned, Delia credits the woman in his life for almost everything he became.
”She was a better soldier than I was and a great lady,” Delia said. “My mother died when I was six months old, so I had no woman in my life until my wife. She helped me so much. Before her I was just fumbling around.
”No matter how many times I thanked her I felt it was never enough. She never asked for anything special,” he said. “I admire these military wives.”
At Saturday’s ceremony the National Anthem and Taps will be played by bagpiper Maj. Kenneth Smith, of the Scots Guard. Following the dedication, lunch will be served at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley. In case of inclement weather, the ceremonies will be held inside the cathedral’s chapel.
The Cathedral of the Pines is located off routes 202 and 119 in Rindge, N.H. The telephone number is (603)-899-3300.
It is a national memorial for all American war dead. All U.S. presidents since Harry S. Truman and the governors of each of the 50 states and four territories have had their tributes placed at the cathedral’s Altar of the Nation on Memorial Day.