Local family-owned company celebrates 100 years serving the military


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A day before America celebrates its 242nd birthday, an American company based in Norfolk is celebrating 100 years of serving all branches of the military.

Every day sailors slip on their uniforms without a second thought, unaware of what goes into accoutrements that adorn them.

Myrna Robson is one of a handful of women who hand stitch hundreds of teeny tiny threads onto every bullion and shoulder board that comes through Vanguard Industries.

It’s tedious work that takes a toll.

“Right now I think my eyes, sometimes my back too, but it doesn’t bother me that much,” laughed Robson.

“It’s a little embarrassing because you don’t think about it when you’re in the military but when you come here and see what these ladies and men do every day it makes you very proud to have worn anything that was made,” said John McClain.

He is retired Navy and now general manager at Vanguard.

Bernard Gershen started Vanguard in 1918, sewing the gold lace onto the jackets of the ship’s captain and crew docked in New York City.

The family business moved to Norfolk in 1996.

“We followed the Navy down here to Chesapeake from Staten Island,” Gershen’s great grandson Seth Gershen told WAVY.com.

Many longtime employees came along.  Jerry Benjamin has been with the company 37 years.

“I like being here, it’s not as cold as New York and that’s the primary reason.”

On Tuesday they celebrated 100 years of supplying every branch of the military, police and fire departments, service academies, military colleges, as well as various youth programs including The Civil Air Patrol, Young Marines, Naval Sea Cadets and JROTC units.   

Yes it’s a job, but Robson says they do it with pride for the men and women who wear their work.

“Most of the time I salute them because they serve me, but because I work here for so many years I feel like I’m part of them, so I feel like I serve them also.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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