COOPERSTOWN—The Otsego County Sheriff’s Office welcomed Otsego County Veterans’ Service Agency Director Phil Couse, Binghamton Vet Center Director Cornell Morris and Vet Center Veteran Outreach Program Specialist Jason Davis recently, to learn more about services available for veterans and to receive literature and contact information for department patrols.
According to a recent release from the Sheriff’s Office, Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional counseling to eligible veterans, service members including National Guard and Reserve components, and their families.
SOUTHERN TIER – As the nation prepares to honor those who have served their country in the United States Armed Forces on Friday, November 11—Veterans Day—one program in particular is giving something back.
Boots to Business is offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration and run in New York State by the Region II Veterans Business Outreach Center. Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education and training initiative for transitioning service members and their spouses. The B2B “Boots to Business: Reboot” is an eight-hour course providing attendees with an overview of entrepreneurship and applicable business fundamentals.
With a lakefront ceremony on Memorial Day, the Village of Cooperstown dedicates a memorial to Robert W. Atwell who, in 1968, became the only village resident to lose his life while fighting in the Vietnam War.
The memorial comes after hard work from Wayne T. Moakler and George Friend, who worked with Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, the Village Board of Trustees, and Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh to select an appropriate site – Cooperstown’s Lakefront Park flag pole.
The ceremony begins at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 30, with comments from Mr. Atwell’s sister, Neal Atwell Franklin, Mayor Tillapaugh, state Senator Peter Oberacker, and VFW Commander Floyd Bourne. The Cooperstown Ladies’ Auxiliary will host a reception following the dedication.
Said Ms. Franklin, “As the sole remaining member of Bobby’s immediate family, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of those who made this day possible. Many have dedicated themselves to this project for at least a year; thank you Mayor Tillapaugh, the Village of Cooperstown, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the VFW, the American Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary.”
CRAFT FAIR – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Kick off the holiday shopping season by supporting local crafters and artisans. There’s something for everyone on the list. Southside Mall, Oneonta. 607-432-4401 or visit www.facebook.com/southsidemall/
OTSEGO — As part of a way of respectfully destroying old flags that are no longer serviceable, veterans from the local Cooperstown VFW and American Legion held a ceremony at the Cooperstown Sportsmen’s Association just north of Cooperstown on Saturday, July 3, where they burned more than 1,600 flags,.
VFW Commander Floyd Bourne and American Legion Commander Bob Crawford led the ceremony which was followed by a gun salute and the playing of Taps on the bugle.
Bourne said the burning of the flags was a way to “consecrate to ashes” and although flag burning has a negative connotation, this is actually the correct way to dispose of flags, according to the United States Flag Code.
“We shall retire them with the respect they deserve,” Crawford said.
“We thank God for this country and our flag and for the liberty for which it stands,” Bourne said.
Jay Deitchman and his son Jonathan Deitchman, from Scout BSA Troop 168 in Worcester, came to help with the flag retirement. Deitchman said the retirement of the flags was something that was important to them. They said that normally they would’ve done this earlier during a scout camp, but because of COVID it got pushed back.
“It’s very important and it’s an honor to be a part of it,” Deitchman said. “It’s something most people don’t know about. A lot of people just toss them when they get old. It’s something that means a lot to us.”
Normally, flags are retired on Flag Day but because of COVID restrictions, the ceremony was pushed back. Bourne said the ceremony was also abridged because of the pandemic restrictions being in place when the ceremony was being planned.
There was no parade, and the crowds that usually cluster around the Memorial Walkway in Oneonta’s Neahwa Park were noticeably absent during the annual Memorial Day Celebration this morning. Above, Master of Ceremonies Les Grummons salutes as “Taps” is played for attendees, who brought wreathes and listened to a short speech from Mayor Gary Herzig. Following the ceremony, some members of the legion stopped by the home of John Forman, left, to salute him alongside fellow WWII veteran Fred Hicken. Returning to Legion Post 259, the veterans were surprised with complementary lunches from Brooks’ BBQ, courtesy of The Porch Fairies, anonymous donors who wanted to make sure veterans were honored. In addition to lunch, the Porch Fairies also dropped off gift cards for groceries for any veteran in need. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
The Oneonta Community Concert Band, above, held its 18th annual Salute To Veterans Concert in the halls of the Foxcare Center this evening. One audience member, 90-year-old Leslie Collins, right, was so moved by their performance of “The Armed Forces Salute” by Bob Lowden, he approached director Andrew Pease to ask if he could recite the poem, “For The Fallen,” by Lawrence Binyon. Pease obliged. The poem, written in 1914, is often recited at Remembrance Day events and has been claimed as a tribute to all casualties of World War I and all wars. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
GILBERTSVILLE – They might have attended rival high schools, but it didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends.
Veterans Ralph Wright and Andrew Sebeck first met one another at the Gilbertsville American Legion Post 1339 in 1971, when Sebeck and wife Anne moved to the area.
They found camaraderie in Gilbertsville through volunteering with the local fire department and socializing at events such as the annual Fourth of July parade and soon realized that they had more in common than just a military background – they shared a high school rivalry.
Andrew had gone to school at South New Berlin and Ralph went to Laurens, just 20 minutes apart.
“I’m drawing attention to the fact that veterans are not alone,” says Butternuts Town Historian Leigh Eckmair, who works directly with veterans to create projects that aim to educate parents and their children on the importance of local history.
As they approach the 100th anniversary of the American Legion, both couples look back on that time and reflect on what it meant to serve their country.
The Gilbertsville American Legion Post 1339 will observe its 85th anniversary alongside the 100th anniversary of the American Legion this Sunday, Nov. 10, at 3 p.m. The ceremony, which includes presentations by the local Boy Scout troop, as well as the commander of the American Legion William Wright, will be followed by a lasagna dinner at 4 p.m.
The two vets had also married their high school sweethearts within a year of one another, the Sebecks in November 1962, and the Wrights just a year later, in November 1963.
It was fall of 1962, when Andrew called his soon-to-be wife from his base of operations in Virginia.
“Cancel the wedding,” he told her. The couple had planned to get married during his normal week-long leave that fall, but it was the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the country was on high alert.
“There was so much uncertainty,” recalls Anne, “You didn’t know who the enemy was,” but she understood nonetheless.
At the time Andrew was serving with the Army as a military police officer, which meant that he might be needed at anytime. “You respect where they are and what they’re doing,” Anne said. “If he said no, there was a reason.”
He was given two days for the wedding and they ended up getting married on Nov. 10, just before Veterans Day.
Ralph and Carolee Wright were married one year later. It was Nov. 23, 1963, the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The country was in shock and there was speculation as to what had happened.
“Most people were glued to their black & white TVs,” says Carolee.
When they drove up to the Adirondacks for their honeymoon, they discovered that all of the businesses were closed.
But none of these obstacles managed to deter the couples, who have been committed to their marriages and the local Legion since the beginning.
“We worked hand in hand,” says Anne, “whatever the legion was doing, we would support.”
From blood drives, to bake sale fundraisers, to helping fill Christmas stockings, the auxiliary has been helping the Gilbertsville American Legion for years.
“We try to serve our community, we try to serve our youth,” she said.
The Legion was originally dedicated to veterans of World War I, but over the years the American Legion has developed into a highly influential nonprofit group that serves veterans, servicemen, and communities around the world. With nearly 2 million members, the legion acts as a reminder of the importance of respect.
“It continues your pride in your country and the men who served,” says Anne, who hopes that people won’t forget about veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made.”
COUNTRY LIVING FEST – 1 p.m. Celebrate country life with vendors, cornhole tournament (1-6:30), pumpkin patch, farmers’ market, more. Includes demonstrations on backyard beekeeping, floral arrangements, fly fishing, cider pressing, metal detecting, more. Kallan Fields, Well’s Ave., Hartwick. 607-293-8123 or visit www.facebook.com/TownofHartwick/
Gene Schmidt, the father of Neahwa Park’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, believes you shouldn’t just honor our nation’s defenders on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
“We can’t honor our veterans enough,” he said. “We owe so much of what we have to what they did for us.”
So now, Schmidt has arranged for the Army’s 10th Mountain Division Jazz Band to play a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at SUNY Oneonta’s Alumni Field House.“I wanted to have a real military band come to Oneonta,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time we had one play.”
In the ’70s, Gene’s brother-in-law, Tim DeCastro, played horns in the Air Force Band. “He was stationed at McGuire Air Force Base (in New Jersey), so he would schedule the band to play up here so he and his wife could see her family,” he said.
Schmidt reached out to several military bands, including the Air Force and Navy ones, before getting in touch with the Watertown-based 10th Mountain Division band.
The band will play patriotic marches and anthems from all the military branches. “It’s going to be a lot of different music, from World War II to today,” he said. “So everyone will be able to appreciate the songs.”
And during the concert, Schmidt will ask the veterans in the audience to stand and be recognized. “And I want to ask the people sitting next to them to shake their hands, give them a hug, and thank them for their service.”
A Vietnam veteran himself, Schmidt spearheaded a fundraising campaign to raise $6,000 for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Neahwa Park to honor the nine Oneonta soldiers who were killed in action. The monument was dedicated Memorial Day 2016.
In 2017, he brought the “Wall that Heals” – a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. – to Neahwa Park over Memorial Day weekend.
“As often as we can, we need to honor them,” he said. “Let’s fill up the field house for our veterans.”
As two eagles circled, Oneonta’s Memorial Day celebration was conducted this morning at the memorial at the end of Veterans’ Memorial Walkway before the start of the parade. American Legion Commander Gary Ballard, top photo, oversees Troop 23 Boy Scouts Giovanni Hromada, Ben Casola, Kaleb Bergeron, Andrew Pierce, Caneb Casey and Noah Miller as they place wreaths at stations marking the different branches of the military. At right, OHS Valedictorian Aben Carrington recites Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address alongside Master of Ceremonies Les Grummons, to the crowds gathered in the park. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)