Hat Tricks to Honor Chuck Welsh
Danbury, CT- On November 11th, at the Danbury Hat Tricks’ next home game against the Elmira Mammoth, the Hat Tricks will be hosting Military Appreciation Night. As part of the festivities, the Hat Tricks will welcome Charles "Chuck" Welsh to the Danbury Ice Arena. Welsh was drafted into the armed services and expected to go into the Army.
“Typically, if you got drafted back in the 60’s, you were assigned to the Army,” said Mr. Welsh. “But as the Vietnam War went on it became apparent that since the Marines did a large part of the whole ground operations, they would need to take a certain number of draftees as well.”
And so, off went Mr. Welsh to boot camp in the United States Marine Corps, where he eventually got assigned to be a Machine Gunner, an especially dangerous job to hold in the famously challenging Marine Corps.
He suffered three injuries during his service in Vietnam. Two that were comparatively minor and a third caused by what would now be called an IED that required a medical evacuation and an extended recuperation period. During this extended medical time, he received the third of his Purple Hearts in a moment perfectly fitting the spartan, humble, respectful Marine Corps.
As he waited in hospital, a Marine Colonel went to the men in the hospital to speak with each person, and when getting to Mr. Welsh, “…he went, ‘you’ve probably heard all these words before…’ and threw the medal on my bed. That’s typical Marine Corps, and see you learn through experiences like that that you’re not the most important person in the world. You get respect for doing your job well, but there's bigger things.”
While awaiting orders to return to his unit and serving temporary duty at the Fleet Reinforcment Headquarters in Hawaii, Mr. Welsh found out that he would be released from his service. “The original requirement was two years of active duty and four years of reserve. But that changed over the course of time in the marines because we were beginning to draw down troops in Vietnam. I was in Vietnam for 7 months. While I was in Hawaii, President Nixon came up with a troop withdrawl and the indication was that if you had six months in country, in Vietnam, and less than a year to go on your enlistment, you could be released from service. So I got an eleven month early out on my original commitment. Then I came back and lived my life.”
After returning home, Mr. Welsh went into the business world and felt a poor fit in that world. So he redirected his life and energies into public service, specifically, as a teacher in the Freehold, NJ Public School System and a sports coach, where he coached multiple teams, and felt best equipped to employ his Marine formed skills.
“The military brought leadership skills out of me that wouldn’t have existed surfaced. I think that guided me to a field where you can lead people and help people. The downside to that is that education is a very soft environment, especially today. My experience in the military was a very hard experience. I will admit to having a hard time transitioning into the softer world, but at the same time, creating such a purpose in people and holding them accountable for what they’re supposed to do, that was an interesting balance.”
Of all the seasons that shaped Mr. Welsh, the one that perpetually gives him cause for gratitude and humility is his experience in the Marine Corps.
“I would’ve never enlisted in the military at the time I was drafted. But I tell you what, I’d never take a million dollars to have not done it now. Because of the lessons I learned and what it brought out in me, and how it separates you from other people. You hear all these stories about all these guys who served and are bitter. I chose from day one that I was going to make this an experience that would harden me and better me as a person. And I think you’re either a victim of things or a beneficiary of how you handle things like that. I’ve always tried to impart that in the students I’ve had over the years. There’s always a good way of looking at things.
“I remember one time in ‘Nam in a big operation we were doing, I kept looking up to the sky, looking up to the clouds and I thought ‘does this world exist?’ Other people are looking up at clouds because they’re on the beach. I’m not a big religious guy, but I remember saying to myself ‘Just get me till I’m 55, let me survive this until I’m 55 well then good, cash me in. Of course, here I am at 73 years old living a good life. I couldn’t be happier with how my life turned out.”
Mr. Welsh will address the crowd in the pregame ceremony ahead of puck drop on Friday, November 11th. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM. All currently serving and former members of the United States Military are welcome to register using the link here to sign up for a complimentary ticket, beverage, and hot dog for the 11th.
For more information about Danbury Hat Tricks ticketing, contact Herm Sorcher.