Veterans Day: 'It's Our Duty'

UTICA, Nov. 11, 2013 – Flag bearer Jim McGuire stood against a cold graying sky, lit by a soon-to-fade ray of sun.

Part of the Post 229 Color Guard, he repeated hefting the American Legion colors during Veterans Day ceremonies -- first outside Utica Post 229 and then at six monuments around Utica. Retired Army Chaplain Col. Gary Howard and retired Chaplain's Assistant Sgt. First Class Timothy Morrell offered prayers. Veterans and dignitaries took turns placing wreaths. And veterans rendered salutes to the playing of Taps.

"It's our duty," McGuire said of his involvement in veterans activities, including serving in the color guard, rain or shine. Two days earlier on Saturday, the Color Guard marched in the Central New York Veterans Parade in Syracuse in the cold and rain. They got wet again Sunday in the Whitesboro Veterans Parade. It didn't dampen the sense of brotherhood, the compelling need to pay tribute to the scrifices of men and women in uniform. "In war you had inclement weather. You didn't stop. You kept moving forward."

Sergeamt Morrell, who is a member of Utica Post 229 even though he hails from Philadelphia, said he likes to tell people about all the monuments to veterans in Utica. They're amazed, he said, that people would travel from one monument to another and another to pay their respects.

"Neither one of us can imagine doing anything else on Veterans Day," said Colonel Howard.

Oneida County Clerk Sandra DePerno, Utica City Court Judge Ralph Eannace, and Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks placed the wreath at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Oneida Square.

Then, on the Memorial Parkway:

  • Tom Buono of the Vietnam Veterans of American and Gold Star Mother Mary Wheeler laid a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial;
  • Utica Post 229 members Tony Palladino and Dave Wilson (a DAV national executive committeeman) put the wreath at the POW/MIA Memorial;
  • a trio of World War II veterans -- Phil Capraro, Tom Talerico and Stan VanAlstyne -- placed the wreath at the World War I/World War II/Korean War Monument.

Next was the Purple Heart Memorial Park in West Utica, where a wreath was placed by Darrel Shanne, commander of Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 490; Shirly Eadline, an Air Force veteran representing Congressman Richard Hanna; and Marine Corps Veteran Vin Egresits, senior vice commander of Purple Heart Chapter 490.

The final stop was at the other side of the city in East Utica at the Post Office on Pitcher Street. Tom Buono, Mary Wheeler, Shirley Eadline and Purple Heart/VVA member Joe Fraccola laid the wreath.

The day began and ended at Utica Post 229, starting with coffee and doughnuts and concluding with lunch. Two buses provided by Centro Bus were filled with veterans and family members for the journey to Utica's monuments. It was coordinated by Utica Post 229, with help from Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Polish Legion of American Veterans and several other veterans groups.

"I'm proud to be here," quipped Vietnam War veteran Wil Gaspa.

Color Guard Captain Mike Cavanaugh put it this way: "We're military veterans. We're proud to serve... It's what we do."

World War II vets
World War II veterans Stan Van Alstyne, Tom Talerico and Phil Capraro render salutes at the WWI/WWII/Korean War Monument.

Photo Gallery

Jim McGuire
Jim McGuire

Sgt. Morrell
Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Morrell

Col. Howard
Col. Gary Howard