Saluting Our War Heroes - The Buffalo News
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Hamburg's Hometown Heroes banner project is accepting applications for its seventh season. The project honors veterans by placing a photo of them in uniform on a banner that is attached to a utility pole along Main and Buffalo streets between April 1 and Veterans Day. After Veterans Day, the banners are given to the soldier’s family as a keepsake. Families also are …

Jerry Lagenor dropped out of McKinley High School's sheet metal vocational program after tenth grade. He thought he would be better off working for his father's heating and air conditioning business. But when his dad closed up shop to work for a big contractor, Lagenor considered his options. There weren't many. He could continue working at his new place of employment, …

Stanley T. Witczak wanted to do more than just build airplanes for World War II. He wanted to fly and attack the enemy with them. "I was 17 and told my father I wanted to join the Army Air Corps and he said, 'No, no. They'll get you soon enough.' So I continued working at Curtiss Wright ," he said of the warplane manufacturer. The eighth of 13 children, Witczak ha…

A love of animals and a goal of helping heal them as a veterinarian technician put Marlene L.  Roll on an unanticipated path to the First Gulf War. Roll spent her freshman year at Canton Agricultural and Technological College in New York's North Country, but the tuition bills  proved more expensive than she had anticipated. So she enlisted as an Army Reservist to pay …

At 17 years old, Gerry Leo headed from Niagara Falls out to Fort Niagara in Youngstown to look into signing enlistment papers with the Navy. But he needed a parent's signature and his father "was not crazy about the idea," Leo recalled. The Vietnam War had not yet escalated, but the Cold War was nearly ablaze with the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when Leo had spoken…

When Henry "Cowboy" Kusmierczyk learned he could earn more money serving as a paratrooper in World War II, he jumped at the chance. He said he volunteered for the high-risk job after he was drafted and sent to Fort Niagara in Youngstown for his induction into the Army. "Every penny I made went to help my mother. She was an invalid, and I was youngest of eight childre…

You may wonder how a burst appendix can play into a decision to join the military and serve in the Vietnam War. It happened that way for Norm Murray. When he was 11 years old, his appendix was removed, and he was so impressed with the surgeon that he wanted to become a physician. Years later, when he attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, he realized the pre-me…

Debbie Lamby Jenkins was 11 years old in 1969 when her family got the news that her older brother, Chuck, a sergeant in the Army fighting in Vietnam, was missing in action. Two weeks later, she thought for a moment her brother had returned home. "My mom was taking a bath and I was in the living room of our house. I saw two uniforms get out of a car," she said. "I got…

Two Purple Hearts, each earned more than half a century ago on the other side of the world, were awarded Monday at a ceremony at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park on National Purple Heart Day. One of the medals went to Mykola "Nick" Shwec of Buffalo, who'd received a Purple Heart medal once before, but because the commendation was never recorded on h…

Vito V. Alongi had a ringside seat to witness the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. "I was on top of a gun turret looking down at the ceremony as it progressed with all the generals and admirals. It only lasted about a half hour. The Japanese were very courteous and respectful. Some of them had on top hats and some had on uniforms…

Kevin Elis was waiting in the pharmacy of Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center when he heard four men behind him grumbling about their long ride home. The former Army paratrooper stepped outside and saw four of the vans used to transport veterans to and from their appointments at the hospital. "They were just a total disgrace," he said. Rusted and with their …

If James May knew who owned the still-shining sword he keeps in a closet, he'd give it back. Days before the Japanese surrender in 1945, May, currently 92 years old, and others from the Army's 11th Airborne Division were ordered to knock on doors near the city of Yokohama and take swords from their owners to be dumped at sea. He figured he'd save one. But now he seem…

Charles J. Palmeri was deeply angered by what he saw at Dachau – newly liberated prisoners who looked no more than skeletons. And then there were the dead prisoners. Corpses were stacked in piles. How could people be so vicious? When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, Palmeri visited the infamous World War II concentration camp to see firsthand the horror. "It wa…

Morton Korn has always been a practical and industrious man. At 94, he still runs a sportswear  and promotion company. As a senior at Ohio State University back in the early 1940s, Korn put his college education on hold and enlisted in the Navy's officer training program. He had to wait awhile before entering basic training, so he put the idle time to good use b…

Eight years into his career with the Navy, Robert B. Bailey was on his way to help fight a war that did not surprise him in the volatile Middle East. "We didn't have terrorism like we know it today, but the world had dictators, and the United Nations and the rest of the world were sick of seeing these dictators killing people," Bailey said of one of them – Saddam Hus…