Honoring Vets: 'Can't Imagine Doing
Anything Else on Veterans Day'

Veterans Day Color Guard
Utica Post Color Guard and PLAV Color Guard present the colors at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Oneida Square in Utica. The monument was the first of six sites where memorial services were held. MORE PHOTOS

UTICA, Nov. 11, 2010 -- “I can’t imagine doing anything else on Veterans Day,” quipped Col. Gary Howard, a retired Army chaplain, after leading a crowd of some 100 veterans, Gold Star Mothers and family members in prayer at six memorials and monuments around Utica.

Colonel Howard, who served three tours in Iraq, and his assistant, Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Morrell, have been coming to Utica to honor veterans for the past 12 years.

Philip Taursano & Jeffrey Hogan
Army Chaplain Col. Gary Howard (left) and Chaplain's Assistant Sgt 1st Class Timothy Morrell.

While visiting the Army Reserve Center on Burrstone Road as a brigade chaplain, he said they became aware of American Legion Post 229’s efforts to coordinate both Memorial Day and Veterans Day activities. “We were so impressed,” he said, that they both decided to become members of the Utica post – even though he is from Johnstown, NY, and Sergeant Morrell is from Philadelphia, PA.

“This is our way to contribute something to a common cause for veterans,” the chaplain said, adding: “We’ve met some outstanding people. It has been a wonderful experience.”

With Sergeant Morrell declaring that the Lord “is my refuge and my fortress,” Chaplain Howard offered a blessing “in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” on both living and deceased veterans and their families. After they prayed, the laying of wreaths, the posting of colors and the playing of taps took place. Legionnaire Carl Yeomans served as master of ceremonies.

The first stop was at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Oneida Square, where Retired Marine Sergeant Major Paul Pressor of Utica, Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Leonard Bragg of Floyd and Army National Guard Pvt. 1st Class Ben Driscoll of Utica laid the wreath.

Next were three memorials on the Parkway:

-- Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where Gold Star Mother Shirley Jones, City Court Judge Ralph Eannace and Oneida County Clerk Sandra DePerno laid the wreath.

-- the POW-MIA Memorial, where the wreath was laid by Tom Buono of Vietnam Veterans of America, Joe Fraccola of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Bill Park of the American Legion, Joe Ziemba of Disabled American Veterans, and Danny Pieloch of the Polish Legion of American Veterans (PLAV).

-- the World War I-World War II-Korean War Monument, where Utica Post 229 Commander  Anthony Palladino and American Legion Auxiliary Unit  229 President Theresa Jensen laid the wreath.

Next stop was the Purple Heart Park on Whitesboro Street in West Utica, where Joe Fraccola and Joe Costello of the Military Order of the Purple Heart raised a special “Honor and Remember” flag, and where the wreath was laid by park co-founder Shirley Scialdo, retired Marine Vin Egresits, Oneida County Executive Tony Picente and Congressman-elect Richard Hanna.

The final stop was at the All Veterans Memorial at the Main Post Office on Pitcher Street, where the wreath was laid by Gold Star Mother Shirley Jones, Congressman-elect Richard Hanna, and Tom Buono and Larry Badger of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The Veterans Day activities, chaired by Paul Wojcik, were coordinated by the American Legion’s Utica Post 229, with help from the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, PLAV and several other veterans groups.