There is no retreat in Tom’s love for veterans

When Tom Sherwood left the Army after three years of service in Korea and Vietnam, he cried. He didn’t want to leave.

Tom Sherwood outside his Retreat (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

A volunteer, as were his four brothers, serving his country was the most meaningful experience of his young life.

So why did he leave?

It was the advice of Col. Best, who had befriended the young buck sergeant and  “treated me like a son,” he says. 

“Sergeant Sherwood,” Best said, “you’re a very ambitious man and I know you’re gonna make a lot of money in your lifetime. If I was you, I would get out.”

The colonel was prophetic. Tom, who just turned 78, left the army at 23 and was a millionaire by 26.

Better than most, Tom knows the American Horatio Alger success story is reality, for those who are smart, work hard, and get sprinkled with a bit of luck. 

“I never looked back, as a Vietnam veteran,” he tells me.

There were no “Welcome home” signs when he returned from service. “So I went home, folded up my uniform, got up the next morning, went over to a construction job” to pay for art school. No PTSD, no nightmares, no midnight sweats. He was one of the lucky ones. 

He wasn’t lucky at birth. He was one of 11 children deserted by his father in Oakland, Calif. His mother, Dorothy, got the brood cross country by train, and moved into her parents’ three-bedroom home in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia when he was 5. 

When he was 13, Dorothy, who had always worked, bought a house in the Bensalem suburb, where he graduated from Bensalem high school.

Born with artistic ability, he studied for a couple of years at Philadelphia’s Hussian School of Art. “Then the Vietnam war got me excited and I wanted to join up, so I volunteered to go into the Army,” he says.

The Army assigned him to be an  illustrator. 

“I volunteered for Vietnam first, but my brother went before me and they would not let two brothers at the same time serve in an infantry outfit on the fighting line,” he says.

So he went to Korea, “and waited my turn.”

That came when his brother Walter, who was with the 101st Airborne, was wounded by a grenade, and evacuated, along with his Bronze Medal.

“I can remember the first sergeant calling me in and he said, ‘Sgt. Sherwood, your brother was wounded. He’s in Japan. He’s fine. Here’s your orders for Vietnam.’”

Tom laughs, “So, of course, I thanked him.”

Tom jumped at the chance. He also jumped on helicopters to get to where the action was, he says, all 5-foot-5 of him, without much thought about the danger. He was small in stature, but big in heart.

He saw “a lot, a lot” of combat. “I would take photographs and make drawings” to later be turned into artwork in many different media — ink, water colors, acrylics, pencil. 

When he got out of the army, he returned to art school and started doing freelance artwork.

“It went well,” he says. “I became partners with a guy in New York who was 20 years my senior, Ben Gilbert.  We bought a studio in New York and fixed it up. Two months later, someone came by and offered us $400,000 more than we paid for it,” he says.

‘We both figured we were in the wrong business, and I focused on getting as much real estate as I could.”

Goodbye art, hello real estate.

He now owns property from Alaska to Amsterdam. Along the way, he also operated gyms, laundromats, night clubs — you name it. He had an instinctive nose for business, an innate sense of how to make a buck and grow it.

“I actually never looked back in my entire life or paid attention to anybody. The only thing I did was focus forward until I hit 70.”

Then, “I started looking in the rear view mirror,” he says, “and I thought I accomplished a lot for a guy from the Vietnam era, and I saw those who didn’t.”

That threw a switch, and he was moved to do something for his Vietnam brothers and sisters in arms who were not as fortunate as he.

He didn’t know what to do until 2017, when Congress created the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, to be celebrated on March 29.

For that first year, on an impulse, he went to the Dining Car diner on Frankford Avenue and offered to buy breakfast for any Vietnam veteran. 

He did again the next year, but felt he needed to do more.

That opportunity came in 2018, when he gobbled up a 60-acre estate in Tuckerton, N.J., about 17 miles from Atlantic City. 

The property had a five-bedroom, 4,500-square-foot house,  several smaller buildings, even a man-made waterfall, but “It was a mess,” says Tom. That didn’t matter, because he saw a promise in the property like what Col. Best had seen in him.

Tom bought an additional 200 acres and began renovating the property to build what is now Tom’s Retreat.

It is not for Tom Sherwood, who lives 72 miles away, in New Hope, Pa. Tom’s Retreat is for veterans. He has sunk about $10 million into the project.

Tom’s Retreat is for others, says Tom Sherwood (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

His original “main focus” was “to help Vietnam vets,” which he then expanded to “help those who help others and do good deeds.” 

This includes supporting state troopers hurt in the line of duty, and groups like Run for the Fallen that supports Gold Star families, who lost family members in military service.

His three children say he is squandering their inheritance, he jokes. In reality, they are all provided for.


Last Saturday, I drive through the main gate and up the circular driveway to find Tom waiting to greet me. He is looking tanned and healthy for a guy who had  triple bypass heart surgery a few weeks earlier. Because of that, we tour the grounds in one of his golf carts.

Goats are permanent residents at Tom’s Retreat (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

Tom employs four men as caretakers and workers on the construction that is ongoing.

It’s a pretty spring day, and his goats are out in their enclosure, a handful of sheep are nearby, the pigs are in another area and Bubba, a handsome St. Bernard, runs to the fence to greet Tom. Bubba was adopted when his owner went into military service and his family could not care for the dog. 

Tom likes animals, but not as much as vets.

Behind the sprawling house, the centerpiece building is The Sherwood Pub, where events take place, indoors and outdoors. There’s a patio, and a bandstand for musicians.

His first party for Vietnam veterans was held on March 29, 2020, drawing about 150 people. By this year, 300-plus attended. It cost him about $25,000, and at this point in the story, you’d be expecting to hear a plea for donations.

Nope, not what Tom wants.

What does he want? 

More veterans. 

While he does have a nonprofit foundation, it is not equipped to find veterans, so he’s happy for publicity. Events are listed on the Tom’s Retreat Facebook page and I promised Tom I would tell everyone I reach to tell veterans to join the Tom’s Retreat page.

His next event, May 19th, is invitation-only, for Fort Dix families who have been ordered overseas. It’s a farewell party for families whose paths now diverge. ‘It’s pretty difficult on families,” he says. Up to 200 are expected.

Tom’s also putting the finishing touches on a nondenominational chapel he will make available for weddings for those in service. ‘Young soldiers do not make enough money to throw a wedding and it’s one of the most important days in their life,” Tom says. “And we want to honor that.”

The Missing In Action are not forgotten (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

In a corner of the Pub, there is a small table with an empty chair, recognizing the Missing In Action. It echoes a chair and a plaque on the front lawn — acknowledging the 82,000 military members from World War II until today, who did not return. On the chair is the silhouette of a man, with the words, “You are not forgotten.”

For Tom Sherwood, no one who served is ever forgotten.

13 thoughts on “There is no retreat in Tom’s love for veterans”

  1. Driven but the place many times always wondered what the place was for. As a veteran I thank you

  2. This article is incredibly inspiring and should be required reading for those who are unwilling or unable to accept how great Patriotic Americans are. Thank you & feel free to keep articles like this coming.

  3. An amazing man and patriot. Thanks for writing about him and his exploits.
    I was blessed with good luck: too young for Korean duty, too old for Vietnam duty. My 4 years active duty
    were a bridge between two wars.

  4. What a wonderful tribute to all who served for our beautiful country, home of the free because of the brave. Thank you Tom! God bless.

  5. My Father Thomas L. Morris Jr. served in the Marines First Division in WWII. My Brother Thomas L. Morris III served in the USN during the Vietnam War. I’m sure if they were both alive today they would say thank you for what you are doing. You are a special person Tom Sherwood! Thank you to my Father and Brother for your service, and you too Tom Sherwood. God Bless you, you are an amazing person!

  6. My husband (Vietnam Veteran and retired Military) attended two of Tom’s Vietnam Veterans party’s and I can tell you this is a wonderful, genuine, giving man. Friendly to all who are there and it’s like you’ve know him for years.

Comments are closed.