The Connors brothers were four of the 37 veterans honored at this annual ceremony. Philip Sr., the only living brother, was there to accept the honor.
Philip Connors, Sr. was so overwhelmed, he didn’t know how to react when he walked through the doors of the Voorhees Town Center on Oct. 24. His son Philip Connors, Jr. felt the same way and his emotions took over.
“I wasn’t ready for it,” Connors Jr. said. “I don’t get overwhelmed easy, but it brought tears to my eyes.”
The occasion was the Voorhees Township Wall of Honor ceremony. This year, the township added 37 plaques, each honoring a veteran, to the wall in Voorhees Town Hall. Connors Sr. was one of those recognized.
“Voorhees is proud to honor the brave men and women who wore the uniform of the United States Military,” Mayor Michael Mignogna said. “It is fitting that they be honored on a Veterans Wall because they stood on the ‘Wall of Freedom’ to risk their lives for generations to follow.”
Connors Sr., 93, and his three deceased brothers, Edward, Martin and David, were all honored for their time in the war and risking their lives for their country. They were nominated by Connors Jr.
Connors Sr., the middle of seven siblings, ran an ordnance base at the Naval Air Station in Squantum, Mass., in 1943 during World War II. He went to Jacksonville, Fla., for advanced artillery training before heading back to Squantum and training others how to properly use guns and bombs. He also loaded the guns and ammunition on the planes before he was discharged in 1946. After he was discharged, he worked for a year at Willow Grove Naval Air Station and did the same duties. When that year was over, he worked for his father’s concrete pot company, Victory Brick and Block Co. Inc., in Voorhees. He now resides in Winslow Township.
Edward, the youngest of the brothers, was the recipient of the Purple Heart. He was 17 when he enlisted in the army in 1943 and fought in the Battle of Normandy. He was wounded on three different occasions in one year, having been shot twice and stepping on a land mine which sent him to Italy for surgery. He was then sent to Atlantic City, where hotels were set up for soldiers to recover, before he was discharged in the same year.
Martin, the second oldest of the brothers, was also 17 when he was drafted and was a Seabee, a member of the United States Naval Construction Forces. He fought in North Africa for six years and when he was discharged and returned to the United States, he worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
David, the oldest brother, trained in Houston, Texas, before being shipped to England, Brussels and Battle of the Bulge. He was a medic who drove people back from the front lines, and his family said David suffered the most because of the traumatic things he saw on a daily basis. They said he more than likely ended up with post traumatic stress disorder and was a different person when he came home.
“He changed after the war for sure,” said Linda Connors, one of Connors Sr.’s daughters. “He never drove after the war but worked every single day.”
They said David walked a mile to get the bus, even in bad weather conditions. Connors Sr. called him “very dedicated.”
“Back then when you came back from the war, you got right back to your job,” Connors Jr. said.
In addition to his brothers, Connors Sr. also had two sisters, Winifred and Gladys, and another brother, Earl, who was the youngest sibling and too young to enlist at the time. When the brothers were away at war, it took a toll on the family, and not just because they were risking their lives.
“I remember her (Gladys) telling me they kept the house dark and had to black out the windows,” Linda said.
“Every house along the coast was blacked out so the submarines couldn’t see the lights of the land,” Connors Sr. said. “Every street had a block captain and would walk down. If you had windows open, they would knock on the door and ask you to black them out.”
When Connors Sr. was home from the war, he married Gladys. They were married for 67 years before she passed away two years ago. In addition to Philip Jr. and Linda, they had four other children — James, Sharon, Patti and Kathy. Connors Sr. raised his children based on his work ethic from the war.
“He was an ordnance guy,” Sharon said. “If one of us went to watch the younger kids, we couldn’t leave until someone relieves you. You don’t leave your post.”
“That’s the only thing I remember as a child,” Connors Jr. said. “He had it drilled into heads, never leave your post until properly relieved. If we weren’t there when we were supposed to be, we were in trouble.”
Connors Jr. said his father doesn’t want to take any credit, but his family is very happy for him and what he’s accomplished in his long life.
“I know he’s proud of what they (Voorhees Township) did for his brothers and him and we’re very proud of him,” Connors. Jr. said “He’s been hanging in there at 93 years old, and it means a lot for him to get recognition.”