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Saluting Our War Heroes

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Erie County

Gene Clyde Stottele rarely spoke about his experiences as a Korean war soldier, but his family knew what a painful toll the war took on the Town of Tonawanda man. The infantryman spent many harrowing months in fierce combat on the front lines, including the infamous 1953 Battle at Pork Chop Hill, where one of his best Army buddies was killed by mortar fire in a bunker w…

Local News

Paul Rudnicki clocked more time in the air over the jungles of Vietnam than he can remember, but he never saw one hour of combat. Rudnicki, a captain in the U.S. Army, served as a military judge traveling throughout South Vietnam to ensure American soldiers received fair trials. “Those men and women deserve justice and it was our job to deliver it to them,” Rudnicki,…

History

They are heroes who seldom seek the limelight. Many of the hundreds of veterans I have interviewed wonder why I want to talk to them. Some start out by saying, "Do you really think I have a story worth telling?" It's mostly their friends and relatives who suggested I call. But after listening to hundreds of stories of military service – from storming the beaches of N…

Buffalo

Father and son were on a fishing trip along the shores of Lake Ontario in 1957 when 17-year-old Gary A. Bauer caught his dad's attention. Bauer had left Hutchinson Central Technical High School without a diploma and was dismayed when he learned a local plant would not consider hiring him until he turned 18. The possibility of being drafted into the Army or Marines an…

Buffalo

Pete Niland's first true epiphany about the way D-Day transformed his life arrived long before the calls from historians or reporters that are now almost routine at his North Tonawanda home, and long before the movie that shifted a family’s grief into American legend. Almost 50 years ago, just out of college, Pete was roaming through Europe with a childhood buddy when h…

Local News

Clyde E. Butcher Jr. was in basic training with the Army Air Corps at Sheppard Field near Wichita Falls, Texas, in August 1945 when he learned the United States had dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The dropping of the bombs, followed by Japan's unconditional surrender, was greeted enthusiastically by Butcher and his fellow trainees. "I thought, that's great," Butch…

Lackawanna

Lackawanna’s Hometown Hero campaign entered its second year Sunday afternoon at the Col. J. B. Weber Post 898, Veterans of Foreign Wars, 2909 South Park Ave., with the presentation of 110 memorial banners by Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski. Honorees must be Lackawanna residents who served in the armed forces. Szymanski started the program in 2018, when 37 heroes were honore…

Lancaster

Mel Szymanski of Lancaster flew 28 missions during his time in the Air Force while serving in Korea, and documented every one them right after each bombing run. Like a meticulously kept diary, Szymanski "penciled in" details of the mission in blue or black ink and supplemented the narrative with photographs and maps, which he has kept in a binder for nearly seven decade…

Buffalo

After 23 years in the military, Janet Smith's service didn't end when she retired as an Army staff sergeant in 2004. She was commander of the American Legion Jesse Clipper Post 430 from 2011 to 2013, and has been president of its Women's Auxiliary Post since then. She has coordinated Memorial Day ceremonies for the past five years at Jesse Clipper Square at Michigan …

Buffalo

U.S. Army Corporal Charles E. Reedy said he counted each of the 29 days he spent in the trenches on Pork Chop Hill during the Korean War. His 31st Infantry Regiment was subjected to almost continuous shelling, he recalled. “I was never on the front line. I was always in front of the front line on an outpost with shells landing two or three feet away from me – and they d…

Buffalo

South Park High School will honor the school’s fallen war heroes on May 23. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with the dedication of a bronze plaque at the school honoring 15 former South Park students who served in the military during the Vietnam War era. The plaque is sponsored by American Legion Posts 64 and 721. Then the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross meda…

Amherst

Joseph Stojek Jr. had dropped out of school, was going from job to job, but not getting anywhere when he joined the Army Reserve. "It gave me purpose. My children and relationship, education and career, now at Channel 4, it all stems from joining the military. I don't know where I would be now," said Stojek, a photojournalist with WIVB-TV since 2017. Stojek had just …

Amherst

Chuck "Sully" Sullivan has a hook instead of a right hand and he can't see out of his left eye. His injuries serve as reminders of the cost of the Vietnam War on the anniversary of the last U.S. combat deaths there. But instead of discussing the enormity of what the war cost him, Sullivan prefers to talk about the politicians. He says they ordered American troops int…

Buffalo

For decades, Paul R. Garland didn't tell his family that he had shielded a mother and her two children from a shower of shrapnel when he served in the Korean War. He says he never thought it merited mention. To him, he was just doing what was expected of him. But as time passed and his four children grew up, his youngest, Mark, known as the “curious one,” finally suc…