By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Chris Robbins, who has lived in Southborough since 1979, believes that veterans should be celebrated every day, not just on Memorial Day.
Robbins served in the U.S. Army for 21 years: three years on active duty, and 18 in the Army Reserves, achieving the rank of major. For the past four years he has been president of The Armed Forces Committee of Worcester County, a nonprofit that exists to honor and support area veterans.
Serving in the military runs in Robbins’ family.
“My family’s service dates back before the Revolutionary War. My relatives served in the Battle of Bunker Hill (1773-1883), the Battle of the Wilderness (1864), WWI, WWII, and the Korean Conflict,” he said.
Robbins grew up in Rye New York, where he met his wife of 46 years, Terry who is a retired English teacher. They have two children and three grandchildren.
He graduated from Defiance College in Ohio, and received his master’s degree from Suffolk University. He embarked on a career as a teacher. It was cut short in 1969, when at the age of 25, Robbins was drafted at the height of the Vietnam War.
Robbins trained to be an infantry soldier and signal officer. His basic training was at Fort Dix in New Jersey, followed by advanced training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and officer’s training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
While on active duty during the Cold War, Robbins served in the Army Security Agency, intercepting enemy information. He was the lead manager for a program called Spartan Pathfinder.
“We took recalcitrant soldiers through the rigors of leadership and an Outward Bound-like experience. After 30 days, they had the possibility of changing their impending discharge from dishonorable to honorable,” he said.
Towards the end of Robbins’s active duty, he had orders to Vietnam. They were cancelled at the last minute; the war was winding down.
Unfortunately, that was not true for his close friend from Rye who died in the U.S. of wounds sustained in Vietnam.
“I carry my friend close to my heart in everything I do that’s related to veterans. I think of him often,” Robbins said.
During his time in the reserve, he worked in sales, marketing, training and consulting.
For his last few years in the Army Reserve, Robbins was the public affairs officer for a unit stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base.
Robbins is proud of the work done by The Armed Forces Committee of Worcester County., which he has been involved with since his retirement in 2013.
“We are here to support area veterans. Once a year we hold a dinner to honor a branch of service, and two individuals who have contributed both to their country and their community,” he said. “The organization has been doing this since 1958.”
The last dinner was held on May 20 at Val’s Restaurant in Holden. Honorees were Colonel Burton C. Quist, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), William J. Adams and First Sergeant, Paul Jornet (U. S. Marine Corps (Ret.).
The organization is working with students at St. Mark’s School who are developing a service project to support young veterans. David Vachris, dean of students at St. Mark’s, and president of the Southborough Rotary Club, has a daughter who just graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, according to Robbins.
He noted that last year The Armed Forces Committee of Worcester County presented State Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) with a Challenge Coin for her dedication to the MetroWest Veterans Consortium.
In addition to his veterans’ activities, Robbins is a member of the economic development committee in Southborough, and serves on the board of the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce. He is also on the board of Alliance Health and Human Services, a nonprofit that runs nursing homes, and foster care programs.
Robbins believes that military training creates a lifelong backbone of leadership and character.
“We were trained in ways to optimize performance. I know that these skills carry over to business and government,” he said.
“I can always tell when someone is military,” he added.