Veterans from all branches of the military, along with the community and local officials, gathered at V.F.W. Post 1371 in Owego on Nov. 11 for Tioga County’s annual Veterans Day ceremony.
Jim Raftis, Sr., Korean War veteran and Memorial Day Chairman, shared that Veterans Day is, “A day when we recognize and give thanks for the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.”
V.F.W. Honor Guard member, Vietnam veteran and St. Patrick’s / Blessed Trinity Deacon, Michael Donovan, delivered the invocation and benediction. Andrea McBride performed lovely renditions of the National Anthem and God Bless America. The V.F.W. Color Guard posted and retrieved the colors during the ceremony.
Raftis reflected on the tenth anniversary of the Route 38 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway of Valor, with members of VVA Chapter 480 present, as well as the 32nd anniversary of the Tioga County Veterans Memorial.
A moment of silence was given following the reading of names of Tioga County veterans who have passed away since Memorial Day.
Raftis recognized Netherlands resident, Erwin Flohr, who has, for several years, adopted Tioga County veterans’ graves in several overseas cemeteries.
Gold Star mother, Barbara Bilbrey, whose son, Charles Jr., lost his life in 2007 while serving in Iraq, read the poem, “In Flanders Fields.” The World War I era poem’s signature poppy remains a symbol of remembrance for military members killed while serving our country.
Kevin Rung, representing the 137th NYS Volunteer Infantry Regiment, read a poem by John Hendricks, “When the Boys in Blue are Gone.” Hendricks, the last living veteran of the 89th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment, has inspired future generations to never forget what the Union soldiers fought for.
Dick Zavatto shared the story of the new Candor Veteran’s Memorial, which was dedicated on Memorial Day.
Two Girl Scout Gold Award projects were unveiled in time for Veterans Day. Raftis recognized Girl Scout Veronica Ricketson for her project that installed Hometown Hero Banners in Nichols.
Adeline Whitmore took on her Girl Scout Award project to establish the Village of Nichols Veterans Memorial Park. The memorial, a large stone surrounded by a flag, benches and landscaping, honors those who have served to protect our freedom.
“It’s an honor to show appreciation to someone who has done so much for this country,” Whitmore said, adding, “I have relatives who are veterans, and it means a lot to me personally.”
Tioga County Legislative Chair, Marte Sauerbrey recognized John Holton, who recently retired as the Veterans Agency Service Director. Sauerbrey gave a nod to both Mike Middaugh, agency officer, and Holton for revitalizing the agency.
Sauerbrey also gave an update on signs that will be installed in recognition of Tioga County’s designation as a “Purple Heart County.”
“The good news,” Sauerbrey said, is, “We originally purchased eleven signs, and now another eleven signs will be distributed, on both state and county roads.”
The road signs are slated for these locations: Route 38 at Cortland County; Route 79 West, Route 96B, and Route 34/96 at Tompkins County; Route 79 East and Route 38B at Broome County; Route 220 at Waverly; Route 17C at Crestview Heights; I-86, exit 61 at the Pennsylvania border; Route 34 at VanEtten / Chemung County; and Route 34 West at Chemung County.
Danielle Ingram of the Veterans of Modern Warfare Chapter 9 announced, “For the past three years we have celebrated Gold Star Mothers during the last weekend in September. We wanted to honor everything they [Gold Star Families] have given up, and the loss of their child,” and added that she is working together with Sauerbrey to, “Designate a Gold Star Highway on Route 17C.”
Once the project is approved, Tioga County will become one of the leading regions in both the state and nation to feature a Gold Star Highway. Ingram explained that there are about eight such highways in the nation; one dedicated this year in Newburgh, N.Y.
Lew Sauerbrey, a Vietnam veteran and representing the Owego Kiwanis, discussed the group’s efforts in maintaining an area near Exit 65 commemorating Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and July 4.
The V.F.W. Post 1371 Auxiliary shared that the group recently shipped out 13 boxes to military personnel stationed overseas. Christmas Cards enclosed in the boxes were made by local students and scout groups.
The Auxiliary also announced their “Good Job Award,” and recognized Jim Raftis, Sr. for his ongoing dedication, commitment and love of veterans.