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Saluting Our War Heroes

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Buffalo

Bob Pawelski's mother sent him out to the garage of her Hamburg home three years ago for holiday decorations and he ended up forging an unexpected connection with his long dead grandfather. As Pawelski rummaged through boxes, he says he "uncorked" a Tupperware container and discovered  a "dusty vinyl pouch" containing the World War I journal of Louis Pawelski. "It wa…

Local News

Nearly 75 years ago, Frank Caruana was on an LST, or Landing Ship, Tank, in a convoy of ships headed toward one of the many Pacific Ocean islands where he and his shipmates dropped off soldiers, Marines, vehicles and equipment. Suddenly, Caruana's LST lost power. Rather than delay the planned invasion, naval officers made the decision to leave the crew of 300 behind. …

Erie County

John L. West does not talk much about the time he spent as an U.S. Army paratrooper in the Pacific Theater during World War II, said his oldest son Randolph West. “He’s a fairly taciturn guy,” his son said. “I know very little of what he did, though I know he saw some action. It was the most important event in his life." West is a feisty 95-year-old who until last ye…

Hamburg

When Daniel Parshall got his draft notice from the Army in 1966, he went immediately to the Air Force to sign up. Just out of college, he had been working as an engineer in Illinois. He passed the Air Force exam, but his physical was delayed. With the clock ticking down on his draft notice, he turned to the Navy four days before he had to report to the Army. The Navy…

Local News

Marine Lance Cpl. Mark Beyers, standing with his wife and two daughters outside their Wales house that was renovated by a New York foundation to be fully accessible to the double amputee, was asked what he wanted to do first in the new home. "Take the leg off," he said, to the chuckles of his family and friends gathered for the Veterans Day reveal. That's how the man…

Local News

When Russell G. Leone Jr. received a draft notice in 1967 and reported to a military processing office in downtown Buffalo, he said he ran into a group of friends who were acting rowdy as they waited their turn.   The incident ended with Leone facing charges of starting a riot and assaulting an Army first sergeant, he recalled. He was the only one charged. Leone, who…

History

Dennis Louth was in combat near Pleiku, South Vietnam, for 48 consecutive days in 1967, but one day stands out. That was the day the gunner had to fly a Huey helicopter back to its base under fire after the pilot was killed and the co-pilot was mortally wounded. Louth was an Army helicopter mechanic and a door gunner. His job was to sit in the open door of the helico…

Local News

The youngest of four children, Mike Sformo had no interest in formal education, dating back to his days at Pembroke Intermediate School, where his father served as principal. When it was time to go to high school, Sformo said his parents pulled him out of public school and sent him to Notre Dame Catholic High School in Batavia. “I think my dad got tired of seeing me …

Saluting Our War Heroes

When a 1943 graduate of Williamsville High School returned home on leave from World War II and shared war stories, James A. Kaeppel knew he wanted nothing to do with the infantry. “This fellow had graduated early in January and was part of the Army’s infantry. He told us how he spent a lot of time in foxholes and I figured it would be safer to enlist in the Army Air For…

Saluting Our War Heroes

The Battle of Soui Tre was one of the most intense, one-day battles fought in Vietnam. It started in the early morning hours of March 21, 1967, as a search and destroy mission by U.S. military forces in the Tay Ninh Province of South Vietnam. Eugene Hackemer, of Angola, was 18 years old, having enlisted in the Army only a few months earlier, after dropping out of Lak…

History

Ronald L. Cook Jr. had plenty of inspiration to enlist in the Army when he graduated from Gowanda Central High School in 1981. A member of Seneca Nation of Indians, Cook said his three uncles all served in the military. And before telling his own story, he paid tribute to them. Wilbur Curry Jr. gave his life in the Army’s fierce 1965 battle at the Ia Drang Valley …

Erie County

Bomber pilot Herman Pawlicki served in the U.S. Army Air Force, where he flew 23 bombing missions on factories, rail stations and airfields in Austria and southern Germany – including a strike on “The Berghof,” Adolf Hitler’s vacation retreat in the Bavarian Alps. Pawlicki fought in World War II much the same way he led his life – with common sense, determination and a …

Saluting Our War Heroes

Mel Palano and Benny Constantino have known each other since they were 12. Now they’re 92. Each stood up for the other at their weddings, and they’ve leaned on each other when they lost their wives. They are the patriarchs of large families who would go on vacations together, the groups so intertwined that each family calls the other “Uncle.” And after both went to t…

Erie County

At the age of 20, Howard J. Hetherly decided to leave his job on the railroad and fight in the Korean War. “They were drafting young men at the time and I figured I’d get it over with and enlist. I figured four years would go by fast,” Hetherly said. “It was the longest four years I’ve ever spent.” Hetherly, 87, joined the Air Force and instead of going to the Korean…