Saluting Our War Heroes - The Buffalo News
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Frank Cortese is one of the few people who fought on both sides during World War II. He started as a sailor with the Italian navy, fighting against the Allies. After Italy surrendered, he continued as an Italian sailor fighting for the Allies. As most familiar with history remember, Italy entered the war on the side of Germany and Japan, before surrendering in Octob…

Bernard W. Amos desperately wanted to go with his classmates and fight in World War II. A year younger than the other Medina High School seniors because he had skipped a grade in grammar school, he was crushed when his father refused to sign the early enlistment papers. "I was 17 and gung-ho to enlist, but my father said, 'You wait until you're drafted.' He knew from…

Dennis J. Kulczyk had hoped to become an electrician after graduating from Boys Vocational High School back in the early 1960s, but jobs were few in his trade. So he instead worked at N.L. Kaplan, one of Buffalo's biggest furriers. His duties included picking up fur coats for summer storage and placing them in a sprawling refrigerated vault inside a downtown Perry Stree…

Jasper E. Rivera says his early days in Colorado on the family's ranch taught him how to be self-sufficient, a quality that has served him well over his long life. "We had our own equipment and we raised all of our own food and we shared with our neighbors and other people in our church during the Great Depression," he said. Rivera's family history also inspired him …

When thousands of other young people were making their way to Woodstock, the music festival that would come to represent the peace and free love themes of the 1960s, 19-year-old Jerry Burger was on his way to Army basic training. The Buffalo teenager was drafted and had no choice – unless, of course, he fled to Canada. "That would have been a pretty extreme choice that…

In his first deployment to Iraq in 2008 as a military policeman, Charles A. Ogin IV was awarded the Combat Action Badge. He says it was "for being in the wrong place at the wrong time." The 29-year-old Army staff sergeant had just stepped from a portable restroom when an enemy rocket slammed into it. Unscathed, the self-deprecating 2005 Orchard Park High School gradu…

When  Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, starting World War II, the Polish people's troubles were just beginning. About two weeks later, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. The Polish army fought hard but was no match, and was soon defeated by the two invading forces. But Poland's resistance did not end there. The remnants of the Polish milit…

Kenneth T. Pepper achieved the rank of sergeant after he was drafted into the Army in 1967, and months after he entered the service, the Beatles released the album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." So it was natural that Sgt. Kenneth Pepper's name was a topic among fellow soldiers in Vietnam. "They'd walk by me and start singing the words to 'Sgt. Pepper's.' T…

Norman R. Hameister took his uncle's advice and enlisted in the Navy, rather than face the likelihood of the Army drafting him into World War II. His Uncle Charlie knew all about the Army and marching into harm's way. He had served in the  killing fields of World War I. "I had about two years of high school at Hutch-Tech and quit to join the Navy at 17. My uncle sig…

When Angelo C. Ianni arrived at Fort Niagara for processing into World War II, the draftee took notice of other 18-year-olds who were crying. They were homesick, he realized. “You have to understand that back in those days people never left their own communities. Many of these young men had never been away from home,” said Ianni. He did not cry then, but he di…

At 17 years old and a junior at Wellsville High School in 1943, Peter T. Xanthos skipped school for a day and hitchhiked 35 miles to Olean, the nearest Navy recruiting office. “I walked in and there was a petty officer and I told him I wanted to enlist. Everyone wanted to enlist back then. That was the spirit. All my friends were enlisting,” said Xanthos, who rememb…

After graduating from Little Valley High School in 1940, Lester J. Bishop started work in what was the main product produced in Little Valley at the time – knives. “It was a cutlery town, and I went to work at Kinfolks making hunting and butcher knives,” he recalled of his job, which paid 25 cents an hour. Several months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bishop…

The answer for why Jerry C. Bowman joined the Army after graduating East High School can be stated in three words: “I was poor.” The fourth oldest of eight children raised by their mother in public housing off Jefferson Avenue, Bowman said that he needed to move on and make his own way in life. So he took his older brother Carl’s advice and enlisted in the mi…

After completing his sophomore year at Buffalo State College, Larry J. Hunley decided to take a leave of absence. He wanted to experience life beyond the city’s East Side. The 20-year-old enlisted in the Marine Corps, which was more than willing to provide him with a change – though Hunley says it hadn’t occurred to him that he might wind up in the Vietnam War. …

Gregory Sanchez learned about war at an early age, long before he enlisted to help rid the world of Adolf Hitler in World War II. He was 4 years old when he traveled to Spain with his father, who left behind his wife and younger son in Youngstown, Ohio. At the time, Sanchez said he did not know why he was going with his father but as time passed, he realized the purp…