flag.gif (12532 bytes)         United States Navy Press Release




Michael J. Owen, Public Affairs Officer                         Navy Recruiting District Buffalo

(716) 551-4998, ext. 19, FAX (716) 855- 0723                         300 Pearl Street, Suite 200

   0wenm@cnrc.navy.mil                                                              Buffalo, NY  14202-2384 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            November 12, 2003


Vets honored during Grand Island ceremony at Veterans Park

By Navy Journalist Michael J. Owen        (with Veterans Day history sidebar)

Grand Island Resident  


Under gray skies as the cold morning rain was beating down on Vets Wall at 11 a.m.,, flags and spirits flew high among supporters who turned out for Grand Island’s 2003 Veterans Day Ceremony held at Veterans Park on the 11th of November.  Honoring former and active duty military personnel, this year the day had special meaning on two fronts -- marking the 50th anniversary of Veterans Day and two months after the 9/11 anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  A moment of silence was also observed for those who gave the “ultimate sacrifice” for their country.

Town Supervisor Peter McMahon welcomed the crowd and VFW Chaplain Mike Rogan, a Navy Vietnam Veteran, gave the Invocation.  Service members were acknowledged and two Grand Island residents that were Prisoners of War during WWII, Lt. Col. Torgier Fadum and PFC. Walter “Lefty” Kendzierski, were recognized for their extreme sacrifices.  Performed by Grand Island High School Concert Band members Kevin Laurendi and Joe Orsolits, the lingering notes of “Taps” followed in the Salute to Fallen Veterans.

At least 100 participants at the ceremony, including members of the Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post #9249, American Legion Post 1346 and the Disabled American Veterans post on Grand Island, paid their respects.  Following the ceremony on Bedell Road, the VFW Pavilion was also re-dedicated to POWs and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary hosted an open house serving free food and drink to all who came to honor and remember.

“We’re here to recognize all military, living veterans and those who died in service to their country,” said Navy Veteran Mark Hebert wearing his old “Navy Crackerjack” uniform during the rainy ceremony.  Hebert held the Navy Flag steady among the VFW color guard that represented all U. S. Armed Forces.  “It’s almost reminiscent of those stormy days at sea while trying to keep our aircraft up and flying off Vietnam’s coast,” said the former aviation mechanic.  Hebert served in the early 1970’s with Attack Squadron 97 deployed on aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.  “A little rain didn’t stop our mission then and it won’t dampen our American sprit today,” he added.

Another Navy Veteran attending the ceremony, Neil Hunter, 83, was steaming for Manila Bay, Philippines in 1941 on the troop carrier USS Republic when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Dec 7th.  According to Hunter, carrying thousands of personnel and tons of cargo, Republic had left San Francisco the day after Thanksgiving in convoy with nine other ships, including a yacht called Niagara.  After the war broke out, the ship was diverted to Brisbane, Australia and then sent to dry-dock in Sidney for repairs.  “Our crew was happily greeted with girls waving more than just their hands,” said the former Boiler Maker 1st Class with a grin.  “But, we couldn’t get letters home until February 1942 while our families worried and wondered about our fate.  We made a promise then and there, since they messed with us, we were going to kick their….”  Some of the convoy troops were later captured in Java by the Japanese and were forced to help construct the now famous Bridge on the River Kwai.

Earl DeGlopper, cousin of the deceased “Medal of Honor” recipient Charles N. DeGlopper who died during the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France in June 1944,  also served near the end of WWII aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.  “It was so different then, everyone was unified and behind you.  Even those classified as 4F were disappointed that they couldn’t serve.”

According to VFW Post Commander, Mike Cutini, veterans who served in foreign wars are encouraged to join the VFW.  Grand Island’s membership is comprised roughly of 60 percent Vietnam Veterans, 20 percent from the Korean War, and 20 percent from WWII.  The VFW welcomes new members from more recent conflicts and offers some auxiliary memberships to others.  A Marine Corps Veteran, Cutini served in Vietnam from 1968-69 and emphasized that all veterans deserve our respect.  “Chiseled into Vets Wall are the official seals of U.S. Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.  Anyone that serves their country helps to protect our freedom and takes a chance on going in harm’s way,” said Cutini.

Another ceremony participant, retired SMSgt. John Gorman wore his dress uniform with obvious pride as if preparing for inspection.  His creases were pressed and his chest was covered with Purple Hearts and many other combat decorations of honor.  “I’m honored to have served, but even prouder of those that are serving today in Iraq and Afghanistan,” stated the Air Force Veteran.

Another veteran with obvious sea salt under his belt, T. J. Miles served in the Navy and then later transferred and retired from the U.S. Coast Guard.  “Anyone that has ever served in the military has a pretty good chance to travel, sometimes to places of danger, sometimes to a unique location or maybe a research mission.”  Miles also served on the icebreaker vessel USCGC Glacier in the Antarctica.  “Looking back on my sea time, seeing the South Pole was quite an adventure.”

On a personal note, I also served a tour with the Coast Guard in the North Pole aboard the polar explorations icebreaker USCGC Northwind (WAGB-282).  From my early years in Arctic to my 20 plus years in the Navy, including a visit to sands of Iwo Jima,  while watching shipmates transfer in and out I’ve learned one central lesson about veterans.  We should take the time and listen to their stories.  Whether through their own words or letters and diaries, especially as the WWII Veterans slip away, we need to reach out, discover them and remember them.  They can teach us, amuse us and inspire us in so many ways.  They may also remind us through their tales of lost lives, time and lost innocence, that freedom is not free and should never be taken for granted.

As thousands of men and women in uniform are serving around the globe today, from Japan to Iraq, from Afghanistan to Germany, from long sea deployments or just far from home, remember, they are helping to ensure our freedom, national defense and the American way of life.  Supported by family members that miss them, they deserve our support and commitment  also.  Spend time with veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but also throughout the year.  If anything else, just say simply – Thank you, thank you for serving! Happy Veterans Day America!   You’ve earned it!


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The origin of Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, dates back to the end of World War I when hostilities ceased at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery and while similar ceremonies occurred earlier in France and England, this created a focal point of reverence for the war’s veterans.

After recognizing veterans through various ceremonies taking place each year on Nov. 11, Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through Congressional resolution.  It became a national holiday 12 years later.  Following World War II and the Korean War, in 1954 under the hand of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the day that was originally to celebrate the end of "the War to end all Wars" became Veterans Day and now recognizes all veterans.

While Veterans Day is typically a tribute to America's living veterans and active military, and Memorial Day is a time to remember our fallen veterans, it’s also appropriate to honor and include a moment of silence in respect for those who gave their lives for their country.  Additionally, the salute has expanded to a week, Nov. 9-15, as National Veterans Awareness Week.

During veterans’ events and in local places of worship throughout the week, p articipants are encouraged to wear their uniform.  Deepest gratitude, appreciation and prayers go out to all those lost in the events of 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan.



To support Navy activities in your community contact Navy Journalist Mike Owen, Navy Public Affairs at 716-551-4998 ext. 19.   To ACCELERATE YOUR LIFE in Today’s Navy with career opportunities, call 1-800-TRY-NAVY-  (1-800879-6289) or www.navy.com   


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Veterans Day history sidebar:   

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and Washington D.C., became the focal point of reverence for America's veterans.

Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation's highest place of honor (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe). These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as "Armistice Day.”

Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar Congressional action. If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was "the War to end all Wars," November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe and the Pacific. Sixteen and one-half million Americans took part. Four hundred seven thousand of them died in service, more than 292,000 in battle.

Armistice Day Changed To Honor All Veterans

By realizing peace was equally preserved by veterans of WW II and Korea, the Congress dedicated the day to honor those who served America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.

On Memorial Day 1958, two more unidentified American war dead were interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War. In 1973, a law passed providing interment of an unknown American from the Vietnam War, but none was found for several years. In 1984, an unknown serviceman from that conflict was placed alongside the others. To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard, The 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil.

A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. However, it became apparent that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.

National Ceremonies Held at Arlington

The focal point for official, national ceremonies for Veterans Day continues to be the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 a.m. on November 11, a combined color guard representing all military services executes "Present Arms" at the tomb. The nation's tribute to its war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath. The bugler plays "taps."  The rest of the ceremony takes place in the amphitheater. Similar ceremonies are also reenacted at many locations around Western New York.


Seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs