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 11, 2004


Service, sacrifice, and duty: Remembering our Veterans Nov 11

Vets honored during Grand Island ceremony at Veterans Park

By Navy Journalist Michael J. Owen       (with 2 Veterans Day history sidebars)



As the morning gray sky cast cold temperatures over Veterans’ Park Memorial Wall at 11 a.m. Thursday, flags and spirits flew high as supporters gathered for Grand Island’s 2004 Veterans Day Ceremony. Chiseled into Vets Wall are the official seals of U.S. Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. Traditionally, the day honors all military personnel and living Veterans, yet a moment of silence was also observed for those who gave the “ultimate sacrifice” for their country. The origins of Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, dates back to the end of World War One when hostilities ceased at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).

As Navy Veteran Tom Roberts, Commander of the Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post #9249 led the Pledge to the Flag, some stood proudly wearing the military uniform they once served in, while others wore patches, jackets or hats symbolizing commitment to their Veteran’s organization or military service, including the Fleet Reserve Association. As the voices of Americans echoed through the crowd, some brought their right hand to their heart while others snapped too with a military salute.

Another Navy Veteran, VFW Post Chaplain Mike Rogan, gave the Invocation and read the Poem, “Veterans Day” by Tony Raiona: “I watched the Flag pass by one day. It fluttered in the wind…How many pilots’ planes shot down? How many died at sea. How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves? No, freedom isn’t free…I thought of all the children. Of mothers and the wives. Of fathers, sons and husbands, with interrupted lives…I thought about a graveyard at the bottom of the sea…of unmarked graves at Arlington. No freedom isn’t free.”

As Town Supervisor and U.S. Coast Guard Veteran Peter McMahon welcomed the crowd of at least 150 as salutes and remarks went out to America’s Veterans and those serving in U.S. Armed Forces around the world. Additionally, members of the Island’s VFW Post, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and American Legion Post 1346 paid respects with the Presentation of the Wreath. The VFW Color Guard also sounded off in a Salute to the Fallen, assisted by the sharp South Park JROTC Color Guard, ending with Rogan’s Benediction and the lingering notes of “Taps” performed by Grand Island High School Concert Band members. Following the ceremony on Bedell Road, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary hosted an open house at the post with free food and drink. Some hearty patrons gathered outside under Lefty’s Pavilion.

The day also marks the last Veterans’ Day within the 60th anniversary window remembering the battles fought by WWII Veterans. According to Island Resident Don Richard, at times it seems like yesterday. Richard earned 11 battle stars in WWII hitting the enemy at places such as Iwo Jima, Okinawa, New Guinea, Saipan, Guam, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Islands.

“In ship’s tonnage and combat area, we were part of the largest naval battle in history and possibly the greatest sea fight ever,” explained the former Navy Machinist Mate about Leyte. He still serves as ship historian for his decommissioned light aircraft carrier USS Langley. “When you’re below deck, you here all the explosions. During Leyte, I counted 54 and sometimes it feels like it was yesterday. You feel the vibrations through the entire ship. You’re also thinking of the best way to get up on deck if the ship starts to sink.”

Enlisting at age 17, Richard served in the Navy from 1943-46. “In another battle in the Pacific, we had a bomb drop on our flight deck and one near miss. It was tough going, a lot of men died, but we had no choice. Young people today need to realize the sacrifice American’s made then.” (More on his “War in the Pacific” story  will appear in an upcoming edition of the Island Dispatch)

Veteran Paratrooper Joseph Synakowski who entered the Army near the end of WWII also wants young people to know that it is the sacrifices of our Veterans that delivered the prosperity we enjoy today. “As our WWII Veterans get sparser, we need to teach young people and teachers that we live in a free country because of them. Many grew up during times of prosperity, without hardship. Some don’t want an Army or Navy and can’t see the danger ahead. If we thought that way back then, we might be speaking German, Japanese or Italian today.” Reminding us the elderly Veterans are passing through the Pearly Gates at more than a 1000 per day, Synakowski doesn’t begrudge anyone for having a good life; he just wants future generations to know the cost of freedom. “Everything comes too easy today and it was all bought and paid for by our Veterans many years ago. Our freedom is not free!”

Additionally, Paul Kane, Commander of Grand Island’s DAV Post added how grateful they are getting good health care through Buffalo’s VA hospital. “It’s one of the best in the country, but they also need volunteers as shuttle drivers or to help out on the wards,” added the Disabled Vietnam Veteran. Contact Mark Francis or Cheryl Boyd at Voluntary Services for more information. Richard Kloc, a Navy Veteran, runs the DAV Shuttle Service to transport Veterans to medical appointments. “Whether you need services or want to assist, they’re waiting for your call,” emphasized Kane.

Other Sailor, Mark Hebert who served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, is concerned about homeless Vets. “As the temperature drops, the Holiday Season approaches and we celebrate Veterans’ Day, we reach out more to the homeless. Yet, this issue needs to be addressed everyday through the Legislative and by helping through city missions, churches and Veterans' organizations. We can’t allow someone that fought for our country to go homeless,” stated the Navy Veteran.

Richard “Shorty” Vanthoff serves as Adjutant for the Island’s American Legion. The Army Veteran worked as an Atomic Warhead specialist in the early sixties, was part of the alert during the Bay of Pigs, and displays obvious pride in duty. “As an American, I take great pride that our boys (men and women) fought so hard to keep the fight off our land. I guess that’s why 9/11 hurt so much,” revealed Shorty. “The enemy finally figured out a way to get to us at home. In the sixties, no one really wanted to go to Vietnam anymore than the boys in Afghanistan or Iraq today. Every time they play Taps, I tear up with pride in our country and for those doing their duty.”

While many Vets share mixed feelings about their military experiences, most echoed this sentiment: We should take the time to listen and learn from each other. Whether through words, letters or 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 again 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 patriotic holidays, 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!






*Short side bar on Veterans’ Day history...

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, as National Veterans Awareness Week. 

During Veterans’ events and in local places of worship throughout the week, participants 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.



Full 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.