History Lesson Highlights Memorial Day

Veterans and other spectators at Utica's 2014 Memorial Day observances not only saluted area war dead but also learned a bit of history as wreaths were laid as each of six monuments around the city.

It kicked off May 26 at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Oneida Square, which, Utica Post 229 Commander Chris Urban told the crowd, "was erected in 1891 in memory of Utica natives who fought in the Civil War."

Calling it America's bloodiest conflict, he said, "It claimed more than 620,000 lives and another 480,000 Americans were wounded or injured. The monument reminds us, too, that we must always be one nation, one flag, one land, and one heart."

Retired Army Chaplain Col. Gary Howard and his assistant, retired Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Morrell, offered words of prayer and healing, lifting veterans and their families up to God, and continued to do so at each stop. Fire Chief Russell Brooks and Utica City Court Judge Ralph Eannace placed the wreath at the foot of the monument.

Starting and ending at Utica Post 229, a Centro bus took veterans, members of auxiliaries and family members to each of the monuments. A number of people drove their own cars.

The next three stops were on the Parkway for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the POW/MIA Monument and the World War I/World War II/Korean War Monument.

The Vietnam memorial "was erected in 1985 in memory of Oneida County residents who fought in the Vietnam War from 1959 to 1975," Urban told the crowd. "During that time period, 58,202 Americans were killed in action -- 61 percent of the men killed were 21 or younger. Another 303,704 Americans were wounded or injured."

Cold Star Mother Mary Wheeler and local Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Commander Tom Buono laid the wreath. Wheeler took a moment to touch the name of her son inscribed on the memorial.

The POW/MIA monument was erected in 1992 in honor of the more than 83,000 Americans still missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, Urban said to the crowd. "Phrases such as 'Keeping the Promise, Fulfill Their Trust, No One Left Behind and We Speak For Those Who Cannot' are associated with our constant effort to recover and repatriate those missing or taken prisoner."

Army Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Neal and Vietnam veteran John Harris placed the wreath beneath the statue of a battered POW.

The WWI/WWII/Korean War Monument "was erected in 2000," Urban said. "In World War I, 116,000 were killed; 204,000 were wounded or injured. In World War II, 405,000 were killed; 670,000 were wounded or injured. In Korea, 36,000 were killed and 92,000 were wounded or injured. In total for these three wars, over half a million Americans were killed and nearly one million Americans were wounded or injured."
World War II veteran Phil Capraro and Korean War veteran Tom O'Toole laid the wreath.

Next was the Purple Heart Park in West Utica, where Shirly Eadline, an Air Force veteran representing Congressman Richard Hanna; and Purple Heart recipients Vin Egresits, Phil Capraro and Joe Fraccola placed the wreath at a monument practically encircled by seven flag poles.

"The orginal Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by George Washington, then commander in chief of the Continental Army," Urban said to the gathering. He offered some statistics on the number of Purple Hearts awarded in the last century.

  • World War I: 320,518.
  • World War II: 1,076,245.
  • Korean War: 118,650.
  • Vietnam War: 351,794.
  • Persian Gulf War: 615.
  • Afghanistan War: 12,534.
  • Iraq War: 35,411.

Urban wrapped up his history lesson at the All Veterans Memorial at the Main Post Office on Pitcher Street, where he spoke of the oath that every military veteran takes -- an oath that creates a special bond among veterans -- an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Several family members placed the wreath there, including Eddrie Taylor, Joanne Huther, Cathy Cashel, Rosanne Huther and Russell Huther. Then veterans came to attention and saluted while Linda Amador, both an Army and Air Force vet, sang the national anthem and Air Force veteran Vincent Zaleski sounded taps.

Everyone returned to Utica Post 229 for lunch before heading out for the afternoon parade, which featured some 40 units proceeding up Genesee Street from Oneida Square to the Parkway. Sponsored by Utica Post 229 and the city -- with a coordinating committee representing several veterans groups and chaired by retired Navy Command Master Chief Mark Williamson -- the parade boasted three marching bands (Procctor High School, JFK-Donovan Middle School, Banda Rosa), a numĀ­ber of Junior ROTC marching units, an array of veterans organizations, Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Sitrin Military Rehab program, Utica Police, Vietnam Veterans and Marine Corps League color guards, first responder emergency vehicles, the Shriners/Ziyara Zanies Clowns, and others.


Chris Urban
Post Commander Chris Urban offered a bit of history.

Color Guard
Utica Post Color Guard