Nation’s brave saluted

Memorial Day 2013 in Dunkirk was a combination of sorrow and pride, history and future, young and old, and celebration and decorum. The area’s 11 military-related organizations that make up the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council were instrumental in planning the day’s events.

SORROW AND PRIDE

Memorial Day is a time to recognize loss.

Master of Ceremonies John D’Agostino said, “Since our last gathering here in 2012, our region has lost some 90 military veterans. They served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War and Afghanistan.”

This year’s memorial services in Dunkirk were dedicated to the late Joseph C. Ricotta and Peter Chudzik. Both served in the U.S. Army; Chudzik from 1944-1947 and Ricotta from 1954-1955. Both were active with the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Honor Guard, serving at military funeral services in various capacities.

In his invocation, the Rev. Walter Werbicki of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church reminded the audience of one of the beatitudes (Matthew 5:4) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

It was with great pride and pleasure that the Joint Veterans Council honored Andrew Dziduch who served served in both World War II and Korea. He was given the grand marshal plaque.

Pride was also evident throughout the day in the way the veterans carried themselves and executed assigned duties such as placing wreaths, lowering and raising the flag, participating in the firing squad and playing taps. It was in each step marched and salute given.

HISTORY AND FUTURE

Principal guest speaker was Charles St. George, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Navy. As the country loses more and more of these veterans yearly, his story becomes even more compelling.

He started with a joke.

“The bad news is I lost my speech. … The good news is my memory is short,” he said.

Actually, his memory seemed pretty good as he simply told what he experienced in World War II aboard the USS Alaska, first going through the canal (Panama) up the West Coast, to Honolulu Hawaii and to the Philippines sea.

Describing the action he saw from his ship on Iwo Jima, he said, “I saw the Marines. … I hoped some would stay alive.”

His ship also saw action in the Battle of Okinawa. St. George described the Kamikaze pilots and the task of escorting the USS Franklin.

He was still on board when the ship was in the China Sea, training for the invasion of Japan.

St. George was able to supply some interesting experiences. He knew his brother was on a navy ship. Even though there was radio silence, the ships employed signals to let the brothers exchange messages.

Guest speaker John Fedyszyn was also concerned with history. Vietnam veteran Fedyszyn, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps from 1967-1969, documents the history of local veterans for the OBSERVER. He now knows that local people were involved in military history in many ways, and called on all of us to learn more.

He said,”I now know how it feels to sail across the Atlantic in an LST (landing ship tanks) how cold it really was at the Battle of the Bulge, what goes on in your mind when jumping out of a plane over France fully loaded with combat gear. I know how it feels walking down a street in Tokyo only one week after the war with Japan ended. Do you know what your veteran did? Did you ever ask?”

Marine Corps Master Sgt. Brian Schneider, a veteran who began his military career in 1986 and served 21 years, pointed to the future. He said, “Thank all of you who came to this service. I want to especially thank those who brought children … they are our future.”

YOUNG AND OLD

Participants in the parade included veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Cold War, and the Global War on Terror. Firefighters from Local 616, as well as volunteers from Dunkirk, East Town of Dunkirk and West Town of Dunkirk marched or rode in fire trucks. The Elks Club carried its large flag. The Rubbermaid Brigade, a drumming group directed by Daniel Van Wey and Terry Roof, boasted on its sign “We’re so old we get towed.”

Groups of young people participated – the Junior Reserve Officer Training Program from Dunkirk High School, the Dunkirk High School and Dunkirk Middle School bands, the Little League and T-ball teams, the Kosciuszko Club softball team, the Girl Scouts, the Children’s Ministries of Iglesia Getsemani, the Upward Bound Program, and the Central Christian Academy.

Parade spectators ranged from senior citizens to small children who were excited to gather the candy thrown by some of the marchers. Applause rippled up and down the street as different groups marched or performed.

CELEBRATION AND

DECORUM

Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of the summer season. Balloons, hot dogs, and candy were part of the day. So were the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America performed by Hannah Wentz and Echo Taps performed by Barney Kuzara and Shawn Ebert.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com