Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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Remembering all veterans for Memorial Day

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Remembering all veterans for Memorial Day
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As an area deeply rooted in American military history The Mohawk Valley has its share of veterans to remember for holidays like this one. Our Andrew Sorensen takes a look at the legacy of a long line of Mohawk Valley service members who helped shape our country.

UTICA, N.Y. -- Paul Wojcik of American Legion Post 229 organizes Memorial Day wreath laying at several monuments in Utica with the same sense of duty with which he served.

"We take pride in what we're doing and we honor those who served before us," he said Monday.

Like many in the Mohawk Valley, his family history covers about half of the military history of the United States.

"My grandfather was in World War I, my father was in World War II, of course, I'm a Vietnam era veteran, I wasn't in Vietnam and my step-son is Afghan," he said.

Along with that kind of service comes pride.

"The parade that used to be out here, there used to be eight, ten thousand people out there," Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri recalls.

That sense isn't gone, you just have to know where to look.

Each of the many flags surrounding graves in Utica's Forrest Hill cemetery represents a service member, someone who has fought and sometimes died for our country. But together they represent the sheer volume of service the Mohawk Valley has provided to our armed forces.

At the cemetery, you can see just how far back the service goes and how many silently honor service members now.

One small hill is the final resting place of Dr. John Cochrane, Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and Colonel Benjamin Walker, aid to both Baron von Steuben and General George Washington.

Some cemeteries in the area boast multiple Medal of Honor winners and scores of Revolutionaries. There is just something about the area that inspires service.

"It's a sense of patriotism, a sense of wanting to do what's right," Wojcik said.

And those in the know say that's not likely to change anytime soon.

"We've been traditionally have been a Mecca with Griffiss Air Force Base. This is somewhat of a military community," Mayor Palmieri said.

It's fitting that the Legion has to deliver wreaths to so many monuments for Memorial Day, because for an area which has contributed so much, one doesn't seem like it could ever be enough.

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