Palmerton Police Chief and Sgt. Retired US Army First Class Timothy Kromer said we should honor veterans and their families.
Kromer, the Carbon County service keynote speaker at Josiah White Park to Jim Thorpe, said, “Your presence here ensures that we will never forget the sacrifices made by the men and women who served our country.
Kromer enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard on July 18, 1997. He said 20 of his 21 years of service were with his hometown National Guard.
“And I have to tell you, my military service made me the man I am today,” Kromer said.
Additional speakers included Christine LeClair, Carbon County Director of Veterans Affairs; Carbon County Commissioner Chris Lukasevich, on behalf of the Carbon County Commissioners; Tom Gerhard, representing the office of US Representative Dan Meuser; and Brad Hurley, representing the offices of State Senator John Yudichak and State Senator David Argall.
Kathy Crampsie sang the national anthem. Gil Henry gave the invocation.
LeClair, the emcee, said, “The word veteran is an honorary title that must be earned through painstaking sacrifice.
“It’s a label that doesn’t separate men from women, nor define race or creed. It’s a title that speaks of courage, compassion and sacrifice. He speaks of grief at the terrible cost of war. It speaks of love of country and freedom and the ideals that are most dear to us.
Military veterans from several organizations formed a color guard, with a salute of weapons to the veterans.
Kromer said a fellow Hometown soldier is the one who suggested he go to the police academy to get his ACT 120 certification.
He said his GI bill paid for the academy, which led to his first police job. He was hired part-time by the Palmerton Police Department in May 2002. He went full-time in December of that year.
“My first first sergeant in my hometown, Paul Gunnels, called me Baby Kromer, because I was the youngest of three Kromers serving in Bravo Company,” he said. “First Sergeant Gunnels looked at me at my very first annual training at Fort Drum, New York, and said, ‘Baby Kromer, you’re a lifer. I hadn’t realized at the time how right he was.
Kromer’s first enlistment term ended in 2003. He re-enlisted for another six years, serving in two combat deployments, spending one year in Iraq and nine months in Afghanistan. He had two active duty assignments in the state, massive flooding in Port Carbon and major winter storms shutting down Interstate 81.
He re-enlisted several times, serving on a logistics deployment to Kuwait and three other state missions on active duty, and spent most of his career as an armor crewman and tank commander on M1A1 Abrams tanks.
In 2016, due to changes in the Pennsylvania National Guard, Kromer had to transition to infantry.
“So at the age of 38, I had to spend two weeks at Fort Indiantown Gap to reclassify into the infantry,” he said. “I was the oldest soldier in my class of seven and the only platoon sergeant out of five in my battalion to complete the course.”
Kromer said that in 2020 he followed his brother to the 165th MP Battalion. He served with the 1069th Military Police Company until retiring in 2021.
“I had so many incredible experiences during my military service, and I look back on my time with pride and gratitude,” he said.
Not all of his military service was positive. On May 20, 2008, while patrolling the Ab Band district of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, their lead vehicle hit a roadside bomb and their platoon leader, First Lieutenant Jeffrey DePrimo, been killed.
On March 25, 2018, Kromer said Sgt. First Class Paul Baker, one of his closest friends and greatest mentors, committed suicide due to mental health issues related to his military service.
“That brings me to my next point, which is that we should not only thank our veterans today, but we should also thank their families,” he said. “Without the support of my family, I would not have been as successful as in my military career.
“Their sacrifice is often overlooked while honoring our veterans. My parents had to put up with their two sons being deployed overseas together three times. While we were away, they were the ones who kept everything here, taking care of our “real world” responsibilities and helping raise my children while I was away.
“So as much as we honor our veterans today, we must also honor their families, because their love and support is absolutely vital.”
Kromer thanked everyone who attended the ceremony. “Carbon County is proud of its veterans and does a phenomenal job of honoring and remembering them. I am proud to be part of this great tradition and sincerely hope that everyone’s dedication will continue for many years to come.
Kromer ended his speech with the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, who said, “A nation that does not honor its heroes will not last long.
Palmerton Police Chief and Sgt. Retired U.S. Army First Class Timothy Kromer speaks at the Carbon County Veterans Day Ceremony Monday morning at Jim Thorpe. In the background is Carbon County Veterans Director Christine LeClair, who also hosted the event. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS