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Remembering our fallen veterans

June 6, 2016
By Cynthia Littleton - , Westfield Republican

Laura Bohall got to St. James Cemetery in Westfield early on Monday morning.

Before the traditional Memorial Day observance of laying a wreath on the grave of a veteran, Bohall made sure her son's headstone was wiped clean and that no weeds of rocks were intruding on the flower bed in front.

After her sprucing was done, Bohall took a moment to remember the 19-year-old Army private, Jason Rupczyk, who died from drowning while on a furlough in Germany in 1994. He'd enlisted in the Army right after graduating from Westfield Academy and Central School.

Article Photos

Photo by Cynthia Littleton
The Westfield Academy and Central School senior high marching band, led by Helen Ihasz

"He wanted to be a police officer after his service was completed," Bohall recalled. And he was engaged to be married. "He had it all planned out," she said.

Bohall will never forget the agonizing month of waiting for Jason's body to found and returned home. It was a somber parallel to the experience of her maternal grandmother, Florence Eggert, who lost her son Howard Eggert in World War II when his plane crashed into a mountainside. His body was never recovered.

They included: Trinidad Jordan, Frank Nicosia and Ed Sunday. Also recognized were Denali Smith and Molly Kucharski, who will be representing the Legion for Girls' State this year; and Paul Barnum, Casen Jewell, Jonethen Spicer and Garrett McFadden, who will be attending Boys' State. Sons of the American Legion Squadron 434 Commander Herb McIntyre was compelled to share the poem "The Final Inspection" by Sgt. Joshua Helterbran. McIntyre set the stage for the several messages that would speak to the community members' hearts and drive home the message behind Memorial Day.

A youthful voice brought forth a touching and wise message to those who passed the flag lined Main Street of Brocton, and gathered under the sprawling trees at Evergreen Cemetery. Brocton Central School sophomore David Skinner gave a profound speaking performance of the poem "The Ragged Old Flag," penned and later recorded by country music great and U.S. veteran Johnny Cash.

The winner of the Chautauqua County Ameri-can Legion Oratorical Contest held in December in Celoron, Skinner read aloud the words of Cash, who described the many clashes of war as well as the domestic conflict the American Flag had been through before proudly being displayed at a small county courthouse square.

"So we raise her up every morning, and we bring her down slow every night, we don't let her touch the ground, and we fold her up right. On second thought, I do like to brag, 'cause I'm mighty proud of That Ragged Old Flag," read Skinner.

Following the words of "Wear a Poppy" read by Girls' State Representative Molly Kucharski, guest speaker, Mayor of Brocton and U.S. Army Veteran and Legion member Richard Frost gave the keynote speech to the crowd and touched on the true meaning of Memorial Day. Frost relayed the sentiments of Marine Corps General John Kelley, who lost a son to war in Afghanistan and Lydia Bixby, a mother who was thought to have sacrificed five sons in the Civil War about the difficulty in sending a family member into battle versus serving alone, and how important it is to keep the fallen in one's memories.

"Never, should we forget the families of the fallen, and we should always insist that America remain the land of the free, putting patriotism above politics, and displaying our flag proudly and frequently. When remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day, it's important to remember that tyrannical regimes have toppled and genocides have been stopped, all because Americans gave life and limb. Without the U.S. military, this world would be a far more oppressive and darker place to live," stated Frost.

Link agreed with the sentiments of the day, noting "The day we forget to remember our fallen, is the day we become a third-rate country."

Legionnaire Tom White read the rolls of the Portland cemeteries. Enshrined in Portland Evergreen are: nine Revolutionary War veterans; two French and Indian War veterans; 28 veterans from the War of 1812; four fallen in the Mexican-American War; 109 from the Civil War and one from the Confederate Army; five veterans of the Spanish-American War; one WWI British veteran; 395 veterans of WWII; 155 veterans of the Korean War; 45 from the Vietnam era; seven from the Persian Gulf War; and six veterans serving in the Operation Desert Storm. The 13 veterans enshrined at the Pecor Street cemetery are in unmarked tombs and were honored Monday by Legion Chaplain Fran Lus. Following the services Monday, community members were invited to a Memorial Day luncheon held at the American Legion Post 434 in Brocton. Patriotic music was provided by the students of Brocton Central School's High School Band, led by Brian Hornbuckle.

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Photo by Cynthia Littleton

Leigh Milliman, president of the Women's Auxiliary of the Westfield VFW, lays a wreath at Westfield's Academy Street cemetery as part of the Memorial Day observance. At left is Lisa Clicquennoi and at right is Mary Ann Beuttner



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