Veterans, family members, special guests and the community gathered at Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 in Owego, N.Y. for the annual Veterans Day ceremony.
Master of Ceremonies, Jim Raftis, Sr., remarked, “On this special day, the nation unites to honor and pay tribute to the brave men and women who have served in the armed forces,” and noted that as a symbol of those still missing in action, a table for one was set near the podium.
At 11 a.m., fire trucks blew sirens outside, and churches nearby rang bells or chimes eleven times. Inside, Honor Guard Bugler Steve Palinosky performed the National Anthem, and concluded the ceremony with Taps.
The V.F.W. Honor Guard presented the Colors, and Michael Donovan, a Vietnam Veteran and Deacon of St. Patrick’s / Blessed Trinity, delivered the Invocation and Benediction.
Throughout the ceremony, the Owego Free Academy Chamber singers performed patriotic songs, led by Megan Burrell.
Deacon Mike shared, “Our military is our strength and backbone,” and, today, he added that the military is like family, and, “We call each other brothers and sisters.”
V.F.W. Post 1371 Commander Mack Riggs, also Commander of American Legion Post 907 in Candor, offered a welcome message at the ceremony. Riggs is a Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient. Raftis noted that Riggs’s dual Commandership is a Tioga County first.
Commander Riggs, who served 19 months in Vietnam along with other service stateside and abroad, asked all veterans to stand and receive a round of applause, and then shared, “I extend gratitude to all,” and as for his dual commandership, added, “I was asked to take it, I was nominated and elected, and I’ll do the best I can because I don’t know how to quit.”
Vietnam Veteran Lew Sauerbrey shared the history of World War One in Belgium, and then read the famous war poem by John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields.” Owego resident Gary Mattscheck attended the ceremony dressed in a World War One Doughboy uniform.
V.F.W. Post 1371 Auxiliary member Dorolyn Perry offered insight into the Red Buddy Poppy program, and cited that money collected assists veterans and families in need. You can find Poppy cans in area businesses. Dorolyn also shared that multiple auxiliary programs support veterans throughout the year.
Al Eaton, and on behalf of the Twin Tiers Honor Flight, shared the successes of the program and encouraged veterans to consider registering for upcoming trips. Eaton and his wife, Monica, often travel with veterans as guardians. The Honor Flight recently completed Mission 16.
Guest Speaker Max Della Pia, a N.Y. Air National Guard veteran, and who serves on the boards of local nonprofits, rang the 11 a.m. bell at the Owego Presbyterian Church.
Della Pia spoke about his military time in Afghanistan, and remarked, “We were called by our country, we don’t decide where we go, we just go,” and throughout his career, which included practicing law and roles in government, he added, “All of these experiences allowed me to help people, and I was proud to serve, and learned from my parents that service gives life purpose.”
Several patriotic citizens were awarded Appreciation Plaques by Raftis. John Loftus received recognition for his work organizing several parades and events in Owego, Gordon Ichikawa for his work with the public address system at veteran ceremonies, Tom Simons of Tioga Post 401 American Legion for his many years of flag procurement and distribution, Dave Radigan of Radigan Media for live coverage of veteran events, and Owego Pennysaver Editor and veteran Wendy Post, for her dedication publishing stories of the service and sacrifice of our veterans, and notably this year “The Sentinel,” her coverage of Owego native, Sgt. Kyle Williams’ completion of duty at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Michael Middaugh, director of the Tioga County Veterans Service Agency, spoke of the many services and support the agency offers. The agency helps navigate the often complex chain of veteran resources and services.
Middaugh also mentioned November’s Operation Green Light initiative, and said, “We want veterans to know we are veteran-friendly, and I want to light this county in green every day.”
The Tioga County Veterans Service Agency can be reached at (607) 687-8228, or visit them at their 56 Main St. Owego office in the Ronald E. Dougherty County Office Building.
To learn about the Honor Flight, visit twintiershonorflight.org.
A roll call of deceased veterans since Memorial Day was also read at the ceremony. In June, George Hyde, Patrick Shannahan, and Raymond Bennett. In July, Joseph H. Courtright. In August, William Beckenhoupt Jr., Richard C. MacDonald. Sr., William F. Reynolds, William Gregory White Jr., and Arthur T. Myers, Jr. In September, Anthony Middendorf, George Peter Gregory, John O. Chandler Sr., Timothy R. Greenwalt, Gary Holden, Kenneth Cartland, and William Langley. In October, Armsby Lee Walters, Michael P. McCormick, and Floyd W. Jayne Jr. And in November, Robert Heinrichs, and William E. Wunder.