Memorial Day parade grand marshal Judd Mott recalls service, life

Judd Mott doesn’t feel worthy. Of all the people who could be named grand marshal of the 2013 Memorial Day parade in Wilton, Mr. Mott thought it could be somebody else.

“I think there are a lot of other people with some real military experience they could have chosen,” he said.

Regardless of his opinion, the Wilton resident of 54 years will be front and center on Memorial Day.

His story of service to his country began in 1948 when he joined the Air National Guard in Connecticut, when he was assigned to the headquarters unit of the 103rd fighter interceptor wing. Fast forward to 1951, when the wing was federalized and integrated into the Air Force, as part of the Eastern Air Defense Force.

“I was sent to a base called Suffolk County Air Force Base on Long Island,” he said. “Our job was to protect the eastern area and mainly New York City. We had a wing of about 1,500 men and two squadrons of F-47 fighter planes.

“My first job there was to write a new regulation for the promotion of airmen. The air force regulation was very sketchy, so I made up a different one with about 20 different categories, such as leadership ability and knowledge of the job, and rated them from one to 10. That was adopted.

“About a year later, the Air Force came out with a new regulation and this was almost a copy of the one I had written.”

After being released from active duty in 1953, he still had a commitment with the National Guard. He returned to West Hartford to check into the Armory, and the adjutant general asked if he could set up a reception desk to ensure that returning servicemen were returned to national guard duty.

But there was a catch.

“When we were originally federalized, I was a junior at Yale,” he said. I made arrangements in the fall to go back.”

He committed to doing as requested for four months so he could return to college.

“Orders were cut and I was put on active duty,” he said. “I was made a master sergeant. I completed that job after about four months and a promotion board of five officers was appointed. I was given a direct commission as a second lieutenant in the Air National Guard.

“I stayed in the guard for another two years while I was at Yale. I always thought I was very fortunate to have been with the officers and the men that I had been with at the guard. They were generally all World War II veterans. They were all great, dedicated men.

“My greatest achievement was becoming a master sergeant when I was 20 years old. Everyone else was a lot older than I was.”

Like many of his generation, Mr. Mott wanted to go overseas. He saw it as his duty. Joining the guard three years after the end of World War II, he had a different path than those who saw action in Germany, the Pacific, and later Korea and Vietnam. He did, however, have an opportunity to travel with the military but was talked out of it.

“We had a request for a master sergeant to go to Saigon, when the Korean War was going on,” he said. “I had thought about applying for that. I was told to not be a dead hero.

“I would have liked to have gone overseas.”

Veterans reception

However, he said, the regard for veterans is better than it was at one time.

“The attitude from the public towards veterans wasn’t great following the Vietnam War,” he said. “We have a few members in the American Legion from the Vietnam War and they joined but they never participate. I don’t think they want to think about the whole situation.”

Mr. Mott said veterans who faced combat aren’t comfortable talking about their experience in the service. They are proud men who felt they had a job to do and don’t want to remember what they did or have any glory. He told a story of a friend who fought in World War II.

“He joined the Army when he was 17,” he said. “He didn’t have to go. His father was an admiral in the Navy. He was in Normandy, and the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. He was going through that forest on Christmas Eve and a German soldier jumped out from a tree in front of him with a machine gun. He shot the man first. He said he must have been 15 years old. Every year I got a call from him, very teary, thinking about the parents of the boy and the boy himself. He never got over it.”

Instead of heading to battle, Mr. Mott fulfilled his duty to the National Guard and began a 30-year career with Bache & Co. in New York, which later became Prudential Securities.

“I was a commodity broker,” he said. “First trading crude rubber, then silver and gold. That was a nerve-racking business.”

His life in Wilton has been one that he describes as “good.” He has been a member of American Legion Post 86 for 30 years and a member of the Memorial Day parade committee for 20 years. He’s also a proud member of the Kiwanis Club.

Additionally, he is a member of the National Rifle Association and the Automatic Pistol Collectors Association.

He and his wife, Laraine, raised three sons who attended Wilton schools. They welcome visitors to their Wolfpit Road home, where history books, pictures, and mementos line the walls.

“This is a picture of my grandfather,” he said, showing a visitor around his home. “It is a charcoal drawing of him in Paris, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War. He was in the Prussian heavy artillery.”

The Motts are people who can say they’ve seen it all. Asked what has changed in Wilton after 54 years, he turned pensive.

“The traffic,” he said. “It used to be a little country town. One of the butchers at the Village Market used to deliver meat in his truck.”

“The taxes are certainly different,” he added with a laugh. “It’s really unbelievable. It’s hard to compete with it.

“We had a more gentle group of people then. Everybody is rushing now. Our three sons don’t want to live in Wilton. One is in Vermont. The other is in California. The other is out West. They want to stay where it’s quiet and wild. My oldest son graduated from Yale and was a captain in the Marine Corps. He’s a lawyer now.”

Turning back to talking about the military as he prepares for his grand marshal role, he expressed concern over the commercialization of Memorial Day.

“We talk about it a lot even during our meetings of the parade committee,” he said. “We get a lot of requests from people that want to be in the parade … and they want to have floats. We tell them your floats have nothing to do with Memorial Day. I think the whole idea is lost as time goes by. People should remember on one day of the year.”

So while Judd Mott believes that somebody else could be grand marshal of this year’s Memorial Day parade, he still recognizes it is special.

“Being grand marshal is a great honor,” he said.

Indeed, this humble man still did an important duty for his country. He takes pride in his position of being one of those who carries the torch for the recognition of those lost.

“The American Legion post puts out 400 flags on the cemeteries in Wilton,” he said. “After that is all done and we stand there and look at all those flags, you feel humbled and very proud. You know that those flags represent people who served their country.”

When asked what he is looking forward to in this year’s parade, he comes back with a simple answer.

“No rain,” he deadpanned. “They all want to march even if it rains.”