Ronald Perry (l) and his late brother George Perry III
By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Being a member of the U.S. military means many things: loyalty, tradition and service to name a few. Westborough native Ronald Perry is a prime example of someone who embodies these honorable traits.
In his more than 33 years in the military – first in the Army, then the Air National Guard – Perry has served in 18 different countries and six combat zones.
After graduating from Westborough High School in 1979, “two weeks later I joined the military,” following the footsteps of his grandfather, George Perry, and father, George Perry Jr., who served in World War II. “On June 18, 1979, I was on a plane to Fort Jackson, S.C., to start my military career.”
One of nine children, Perry had three brothers who also served in the military, George III and Joseph who served in Vietnam and Robert who served in Desert Storm. George III was also the former veteran’s agent for the Central Massachusetts Veterans Service District until his unexpected passing in 2014.
“We’ve had a Perry in almost every war in recent history,” he said. “It seemed like the right choice to join the military.”
Perry, himself, served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia at Prince Sultan Air Base.
Throughout his military career, Perry said he “wore many hats.” He was a resource advisor manager, food service superintendent, unit deployment manager/readiness manager, and unit security manager.
In addition to the Middle East, he was deployed to Turkey, Columbia, Honduras and Peru. Saudi Arabia, he said, was the country where he felt the most vulnerable.
“We were constantly under the watchful eye of the enemy,” he said. “Security was very strict.”
Perry recalled two incidences in particular that highlighted the always imminent danger.
In one instance, a local employee was caught with a depiction of the military compound drawn on his chest and, in another, soldiers discovered a local garbage truck full of dynamite.
“We had to be constantly on guard,” he said.
When he retired in 2013, as a master sergeant with numerous awards and decorations, Perry knew he wanted to keep busy.
“One of my goals once I retired,” he said, “was to help veterans get their benefits.”
He realized during his retirement process from the military that many veterans, including himself, did not know about all the services available to them.
And it’s not only the older veterans that are missing out. Even with all the information outlets available today, “it is still common that even new veterans don’t know what they are entitled to.
“Any vet young or old needs to talk to a vet agent,” he continued. “They served our country and they deserve this. I’m there to help vets get what they deserve.”
Perry is currently quartermaster at the Westborough VFW Post 9013 and acts as a veterans’ advocate. He also works with the town of Westborough as a liaison to plan annual parades, coordinating military vehicles, color guard and reenactment groups.
According to Adam Costello, who now serves as director of the Central Massachusetts Veterans’ Service District, “Ron strives to help the people in his community, and never asks to be recognized for it. He doesn’t do it for the recognition. He does it because he knows that he has the ability to make positive impacts on the lives of the people around him.”
Costello recalled Perry’s initiative to bring closure to the family of William Dohlus, a World War II veteran from Grafton who was lost at sea. Perry organized a ceremony for what would have been Dohlus’s 100th birthday.
“Ron immediately organized a rifle team to render honors and brought members of Westborough’s VFW down to pay their respects at William’s memorial,” Costello said.
The service ended up being a combined effort among members of Grafton’s VFW, Grafton’s American Legion, Northborough’s American Legion, Westborough’s VFW and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
“It’s unusual, to say the least, for these organizations to work together in such a fashion, but Ron was especially intent on ensuring that the family knew that William’s memory was not forgotten,” Costello said. “This was important not only because it helped to remember William, but it also showed unified support from the local communities that brought great comfort to the family.”
In addition to his volunteer work, Perry stays busy working in a small engine shop and spending time with his two daughters and six grandchildren that range in age from 2 to 14. He lives in Charlton with his wife Cindy.
For those who are thinking about joining the military, Perry urges them to make sure they are committed.
“The military is not everyone’s cup of tea,” he said. “It’s what you make of it.”
However, he said “it offers a stable career and retirement. It’s not going away like a lot of businesses do.”
Perry and Costello recently shared their experiences with Westborough High School students to give them a real account of military life.
“Ron recognizes the importance of sharing his experiences to help our students get a well-rounded education and first-hand perspectives directly from the members of their community,” Costello said.
Perry noted that he hopes he will also be a mentor to his young grandchildren. His oldest, 14, is already in the Junior ROTC in Worcester and he takes his youngest to the armory where he likes to climb in and out of the trucks.
“I hope at least one of them will carry on the Perry tradition,” he said.