Tag Archive | "Veteran’s Day"

William Stafford



 Sag Harbor native William Stafford, a decorated army veteran, will be the speaker following the Sag Harbor Veterans Day Parade on Tuesday, November 11. He discusses his experiences in Vietnam, his life after the army and what Veterans Day means to him.

When did you enlist?

It was December 1967, I volunteered. I had just gotten out of high school, so I was pretty young. I went through basic training—I went as a combat medic so I went through basic training, I was stationed in Fort Sam, that’s where my training was. Then I went to a military hospital called Fitzsimmons in Denver, Colorado, for burn training. And then I went to Vietnam in 1968 for the first time. I was with Alpha Company 4th of the 31st 196th Light Infantry Brigade. I was there for about eight months and I got shot. I was medevaced out and I was in the hospital for three months. I went back to active duty and I was stationed in Fort Meade, Maryland, and in Arlington Cemetery, and I did a little honor detail where we used to go to funerals around the country. I then got orders to go back to Vietnam.

After you had already been shot? 

Yes, I had two Purple Hearts at that time, soon to get three. There wasn’t much discipline in Vietnam, and here was so out of control with people demonstrating—the world was just spinning to me, and it was hard for me to understand. I felt safe with these guys, so I went back Vietnam. I was with the 101st Airborne Division. I was there 65 days and I got hit again on July 4, 1970. This time it was quite a bit worse, the second time around I was probably in the hospital for close to nine months. They decided that I was hurt enough they would give me a medical discharge and retire me out of the military at the age of 22 and a half, 23.

Why did you choose to train as a combat medic when you enlisted? 

When I was in high school I worked in Southampton Hospital in the emergency room and also in the operating room. I decided I was going to be in the medical field, when I got out of the service I started nursing school, but I couldn’t deal with sickness or suffering for a long, long time. Which has changed in my life, finally, but it took some time.

What did you do after being discharged from the military?

I came back and I went to Long Island University. I started to be a teacher, but I couldn’t do it—at that point in time I had a low-boiling point and the rules were hard for me to follow. So I did a lot of different things. I was a chef, I’ve done real estate for 40 years. I got married, I have grown kids.

How have you been involved with veterans in the community?

I’ve been a member of the VFW since 1968 and I am a member of the American Legion. I went back to Vietnam for 21 days about seven years ago, which was an interesting process. I reconnected with the people I served with in Vietnam, the ones that are left.  Then I went back to college at age 60 to get another degree in counseling and drug and alcohol addictions, which I do now, one day a week. I also have worked in hospice for 15 years. I reconnected with things, and helping other people helps me. I’m involved in the veterans groups because they go out of their way to help people.

What are some of the things that can be done on a national and local level to support our veterans?

When I grew up there were plenty of heroes. I had a lot of heroes growing up: Abraham Lincoln, my father, my grandfather, there were people in the community I looked up to, some of my schoolteachers. I don’t know if that’s so much the case anymore, maybe people don’t talk like they should. There are a lot of heroes walking around here, and most of them are very quiet. So in my speech, what I’m going to say is “hug a veteran.”





Sag Harbor Heroes Honored During Veterans Day Celebrations

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By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

In annual Veterans Day celebrations this week, Sag Harbor residents recognized that honoring village veterans is a year round duty, not a daylong event. Whether by visiting a monument, putting up a plaque or rubbing a gravestone, veterans and community members work to celebrate our heroes throughout the year, and those efforts were officially recognized with commemorative events Monday.

From Cub Scouts to World War II veterans, troops in uniform kicked off the holiday at the annual Veterans Day Parade through Sag Harbor Village Monday morning. After the parade, government officials and honored servicemen gathered outside the American Legion Chelberg and Battle Post 388 on Bay Street. Following speeches, about 40 residents headed over to the Ferry Road Cemetery in North Haven to hear village historian Joe Zaykowski present a lecture on the cemetery restoration and the lives of veterans resting there.

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion.

At the American Legion Hall, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082 Commander Roger King, who served two terms in Iraq, spoke of veterans’ “sacrifice for the common good,” and the symbolic significance of this year’s restoration of the federal holiday to November 11.

Veterans Day is always observed on November 11; however, in 2012, for example, the official federal holiday fell on November 12 because it was a Monday. King recognized the significance of the holiday returning to November 11 as it coincides with Armistice Day, which marks the settlement signed at the end of World War I on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Post Commander Marty Knab said the day’s events were intended not only to thank those who fought in battle, but also to thank and honor all who have served honorably in the military in any capacity, be it wartime or peacetime. While recognizing the ultimate sacrifice of those killed in battle, Knab hoped to also underscore the fact that all who served have made huge sacrifices for their country.

“Not all veterans have seen war,” Knab told the crowd. “But a common bond that they share is an oath in which they express their willingness to die defending this nation. Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight, because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier, the Air Force Fighter Squadron, or the Army soldier on patrol.”

“Our country finds these men and women in the many small communities around our country, like our own Village of Sag Harbor,” he continued.

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion.

Local writer and World War II veteran Robert Riskin, whose officer encouraged him to pursue a writing career, spoke of his visit in September to the World War II monument in Washington, D.C. Riskin’s trip was facilitated by the Honor Flight Network, an organization that honors veterans by transporting them to visit their memorials.

“I was not very excited about going,” admitted Riskin. “And then I thought, ‘Well, it’s free…so what the hell? I’ll try it.’”

Accompanied by Knab, Riskin enjoyed a motorcycle escort, bagpipe serenade and a welcoming reception from Naval Academy plebes on the daylong trip to Washington.

“I almost broke down, it was just such an incredible feeling of love,” he said, adding, “the memorial itself is just about one of the most fantastic things you’ll ever see … the emotions that it brings up are very, very strong.”

After the veterans’ speeches, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. presented a proclamation, “the state’s highest honor,” he noted, to Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride and dockmaster David Thommen commemorating Sag Harbor’s heroic moment in the War of 1812. Two hundred years ago in July 1813, British troops stationed off the Long Island coast attempted to invade and pillage the small seaside village of Sag Harbor, as they had done to countless towns across the island. Greeted by a group of residents and militiamen on shore, the British quickly retreated, recognizing that whatever goods they could plunder were not worth a battle against the spirited community.

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Justice Julia Schiavoni, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride and Sag Harbor Village Board Trustee Ed Deyermond honored David Thommen (second from right) for his work restoring the monument honoring the site of a Revolutionary War fort in Sag Harbor

Local officials honor Village Dockmaster David Thommen (second from right).

“We repelled the British. They never returned again until the British invasion of 1964,” Thiele joked, referring to The Beatles.

The assemblyman spoke of his own childhood playing around the old fort on High Street, but he never knew the story behind it.

“We all know it today and it’s because of the single-handed volunteer efforts of David Thommen,” said Thiele of the village dockmaster, who revitalized the fort – and the community’s knowledge of its own heroism — by dedicating a plaque and raising a flag there last July.

“This is about the veterans from the first militias in 1620 to the returning soldiers today,” said Thommen, accepting the proclamation.

Following the ceremony, North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski gave a presentation to a crowd at the Ferry Road Cemetery on Route 114. Zaykowski successfully restored the gravestones there and, in doing so, unearthed the stories of some of North Haven’s earliest residents.

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski at the grave of Revolutionary War Veteran John Payne, Sr.

Zaykowski spoke of the life and lineage of John Payne, Sr., a veteran of both the colonial French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, who died 200 years ago in November 1813 and was laid to rest on Ferry Road. Payne’s gravestone was ineligible, cracked and scattered until Zaykowski’s restoration.

Zaykowski spoke extensively on the history of North Haven, with specific knowledge of lineages, burial techniques and even houses — several of which remain in the village today. His brother-in-law, Philip Reynolds, played period music from the Revolutionary War era on his saxophone.

In 1781, Payne received nine pounds, 19 shillings and one penny for his service in the Revolutionary War, according to Zaykowski.

“I cannot tell you that John Payne was a so-called war hero,” Zaykowski, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the crowd. “That’s not important; He served his country, served it well I’m sure.”

In attendance to hear Zaykowski’s talk was Alexandra Binder, who lives on Shelter Island with her fiancé Beau Payne, a direct descendant of John Payne. Eager to learn more of her new family’s extensive local history, Binder was ecstatic to have the aid of Zaykowski, who has traced the Payne’s lineage all the way back to England prior to the colonization of America.

Veterans Day Events Planned in Sag Harbor

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By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

Two hundred years after British troops attempted unsuccessfully to invade the small coastal village during the War of 1812, Sag Harbor will celebrate those who have defended it ever since with several events around town this Veterans Day.

At 9 a.m. Monday, November 11, the annual Veterans Day Parade will head from the Civil War Monument down Main Street and onto Bay Street, with an observance at the American Legion Hall immediately following.

The featured speakers, Roger King, Marty Knab and Robert Riskin, range in age from 28 to 86, but, having served in our armed services, they share an experience few can understand.

After graduating from Pierson High School, King served in the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2009, during which he completed two combat tours in Iraq. In 2012, he became the youngest commander ever appointed to lead Sag Harbor’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082.

Marty Knab is the Commander of the American Legion Chelberg and Battle Post 388 and an organizer of the Veterans Day commemorations. He served for 20 years in the Coast Guard.

The final veteran speaker is Robert Riskin, 86, who was drafted to World War II when he was 18 and completed basic training, although he was fortunate enough not to see combat firsthand.

Following the speakers, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. will present a proclamation to Mayor Brian Gilbride and Dockmaster David Thommen honoring Sag Harbor’s heroic moment in the War of 1812 in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle that took place in Sag Harbor, which was celebrated this July.

According to an official report written by General Abraham Rose, five barges carrying British troops landed in Sag Harbor on July 11, 1813. The barges were positioned off Long Island’s coast with the intent of blocking trade coming out of New York City. Lacking supplies on the stationed barges, the British troops would routinely invade, pillage and burn villages across Long Island.

When the British approached Sag Harbor’s shore, according to General Rose, they were greeted with “a reception so warm and spirited from our militia that they abandoned the operation and retreated.”

Due to the heroism of its residents, Sag Harbor was spared the fate endured by the island’s other villages.

Also on Monday, a different 200-year anniversary will be commemorated. North Haven Village historian and Vietnam veteran Joe Zaykowski will celebrate his restoration of the Ferry Road Cemetery, and the anniversary on which John Payne, Sr. was laid to rest in it.

A veteran of both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, Payne was a resident yeoman (gentleman farmer) in North Haven. His father was among the first settlers of North Haven and his grandson built the hamlet’s first bridge.

“[Payne’s] stone was broken in half and it was quite illegible,” said Zaykowski, adding that due to his restoration, the cemetery is “quite spiffy now.”

Starting at 10 a.m., Zaykowski will give a brief talk on Payne, as well as his connections to those buried around him. Refreshments will be served and period music from the Revolutionary War days will be played.

Payne died on November 1, 1813, so “the timing is really awesome,” said Zaykowski, who was born and raised in Sag Harbor and co-authored a book on the early history of North Haven with his mother, Dorothy Ingersoll Zaykowski.

The celebration will also honor two other North Haven veterans from the period: Joseph Trowel, who was captured and held prisoner during the Revolutionary War, and Constance Havens II, who, along with Payne, is one of only two veterans from the hamlet to fight in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.

“I know the Payne family history and the Trowels and Havens as well as I do my own genealogy,” said Zaykowski, who first became interested in Payne while working on the cemetery restoration.

“Just discovering who’s stone that was over there that was so neglected and forgotten,” he explained, “I thought it would be nice to bring that to the surface again. Being a veteran myself, I thought that would be cool.”

Thank a Vet


Each year on November 11, we take the time to remember the men and women who have served our country. This may come in the form of a well-organized evening at home with loved ones, or perhaps it’s only a brief pause over the breakfast table while reading the morning paper. However you choose, or just happen to spend the holiday, chances are you will hear the word veteran and — as is the case with national days of remembrance — it will give you pause.

Since the end of World War I in 1918, Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day) has been an annual national tradition. But, while routine, it’s important to also reflect on why we take this time to honor our vets.

It’s been said before but it bears repeating: these are men and women who have put their lives on the line in defense of our country and everything it stands for; men and women who have pushed their bodies and minds to extreme limits, left loved ones back home to travel half way around the world, often to unfamiliar places, only to face difficult decisions and life-altering predicaments.

Wherever you stand on the political scene and whatever your thoughts on war and conflict, these men and women have experienced an emotional spectrum more intense and varied than most, to a degree anyone who has never been in combat cannot possibly comprehend.

We honor them for their sacrifice. But, more importantly, we respect the tough decisions they have at times been forced to make. They made tough choices so we didn’t have to.

So tomorrow, on 11/11/11, let’s all be sure to tell the veterans “thank you” any way we.

Honor Flight on Veterans Day

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By Claire Walla

Occurring on 11.11.11, this year Veteran’s Day already seems more epic than most.

But for four Sag Harbor residents, its significance doesn’t stop there.  The holiday will also be marked by an Odyssey nearly 40 years in the making, during which the four Vietnam veterans will journey to Washington D.C. and visit the Vietnam Memorial for the very first time.

“On behalf of everyone, we really appreciate the opportunity to go down there,” said Daniel Sabloski, an Honor Flight participant who grew up in Sag Harbor and served as a combat soldier in Vietnam for 11 months.  “I look forward to going,” he continued.  “This is something I feel I need to do.”

He will be joined by Sag Harbor residents Jay Babcock, Richard Henn and Steve Peters, as well as nearly 40 other veterans from Long Island.  The entire event will also include veterans from Philadelphia and Atlanta, bringing the total number of participants to over 120.

The event was organized by Honor Flight Long Island, which operates out of the Department of Human Services at Southampton Town.  Bill Jones, the director of human services who graduated from West Point and served in Vietnam shortly after the end of the war, will also accompany the veterans.

As someone who’s been to the Vietnam Memorial—and someone who’s attended many Honor Flight trips in the past—Jones said he expects the journey to be a powerful, emotional experience for all those involved.

“I was really moved by it,” Jones said of his visit to the memorial back in the ‘80s.  The stone wall is a zig-zagging surface that holds more than 57,000 names.  “It’s not a minute’s walk,” he continued.  “It takes you a long time to see it all.”

“I know that what the guys talk about more than anything is the fact that every single name is up on that wall,” Jones continued.  “It’s not just a general memorial for those who fought, but it’s for those who died, too.  That’s extremely personal.”

The Honor Flight crew is taking a handful of “guardians” with them, one of whom is Richard Henn from Sag Harbor, so that veterans will be able to experience the memorial with somewhat of a support network.

“I know it’s going to be difficult for a lot of the guys going down, they’ve already expressed that to me,” Jones added.  “Although I didn’t experience it myself, the loss of life right next to you is hard to talk about,” Jones said.  “But Honor Flight has allowed that to happen.”

Jones said one of the most important things Honor Flight does is it gives veterans the chance to talk to one another about experiences that they’ve all shared; experiences they are not necessarily able to talk about with those who haven’t experienced war.

“They think a lot about it,” he continued.  “[War] leaves such an indelible mark, if you’ve served for one year in Vietnam or three or four years in World War II.”

Over the past four years, Honor Flight has worked to bring nearly 750 veterans of World War II down to D.C. to visit the World War II memorial.  And while Honor Flight’s mission remains dedicated to veterans of WWII—whom they hope to accommodate first, as that population continues to age—the trip to the Vietnam Memorial came to fruition because of a special project funded entirely by the History Channel.

According to Virginia Bennet, deputy director of the Southampton Town Human Services Department, the grant from the History Channel “paid for everything.”

She explained that the History Channel—which aired its three-part series on the Vietnam War earlier this week—is working in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) to collect photographs of every single person whose name appears on the Vietnam memorial wall in D.C.  The photographs will be part of an interactive exhibit at the VVMF Education Center that’s expected to open in 2014.

Day Honors WWII Vets

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As the village prepares to celebrate the memory of one of its youngest war veterans this weekend, some of its oldest veterans marched down Main Street and on to Bay Street Tuesday morning, to a rock that juts up from the center of Marine Park. The rock, dragged into place in 1955 honors the men and women from Sag Harbor who served during World War II.

On Tuesday — Veteran’s Day — the community had the opportunity to come together and honor its long line of service men and women, many who made the ultimate sacrifice in wars stretching from the Revolution, to the recent conflict in Iraq. On Saturday, they will come together again to rename the bridge that connects Sag Harbor to North Haven after fallen Marine Jordan Hareter, who gave his life earlier this year in RAMADI to protect dozens of others.

But on Tuesday, the focus of attention was clearly on the 446 veterans of the last Great War, where 18 native sons from Sag Harbor never returned. For the first time, the slab of tan stone that stood in brilliant relief against the deep blues of the harbor waters and the November sky, bore a bronze plaque this year, listing all of the men and women from Sag Harbor, Noyac and North Haven who served in the war — a staggering amount for such a small community, probably about 10 percent of the population at the time.

“They had the draft board in Southampton in those days, and they left their boys alone and took all of ours,” joked John Ward, one of three members of the local American Legion who spent the past year-and-a-half painstakingly making lists to ensure all the vets were recognized on the plaque. Along with Ward were Robert Browngradt — whose brother, Arthur, was listed as having given his life — and George Boziwick, who noted during dedication ceremonies Tuesday morning, that many of those who survived are no longer alive or else in their eighties or nineties.

Boziwick gestured to the breakwater behind him on Tuesday morning and said the rock that held the plaque originally came from the New York subway system — by way of the breakwater.

It was Ward who first arranged for the big slab of rock to be pulled into place in 1955, ten years after the war finally ended. He was serving on the village’s board of trustees at the time and, in an interview this week, said he remembered seeing a slab on the breakwater one day which he thought would be perfect for a monument. He was motivated to erect the monument based on a story he remembers an uncle telling him about the World War I monument at Otter Pond. After that war, the community decided it wanted a monument for those who had served, and found a massive rock up on the property that is now Spring Farm off Stoney Hill. The rock was dragged into place on a sled pulled by two teams of horses, said Ward, and a bronze plaque mounted listing all the war’s veterans.

In 1955, the village had a rock monument to honor its World War II veterans, but could not afford a large enough plaque listing all the veterans, said Ward. There was a small plaque saying the monument was dedicated to all those who served, but it wasn’t until recently that Ward, Boziwick and Browngardt decided to tackle the job of collecting all the names of local World War II veterans for a new plaque. Ward said the roughly $10,000 needed to construct and mount the plaque was raised privately, through donations from businesses and individuals. The list itself also came from many different places.

There was no single record of all the veterans, Ward said, but there was a list of many, painted on wooden boards, as a sort of memorial in front of the lot where the former Alvin Silver Building had stood on Main Street. Plus there was a list at the firehouse of all the firefighters who had served, and Boziwick said on Tuesday morning they had also found lists at the Old Whalers Church and other places.

“We just pieced them together,” said Ward. “But every time we thought we had the list complete, someone else would come along with another name or two.”

They also relied on word of mouth, and veterans and their families talking the project up.

“Many names might never have made the list,” said Ward, who added that his own name might not have been included had he not been involved, since his name did not appear on any of the other lists of WW II veterans.

The monument is an important reminder, said Ward, of the sacrifices many small towns made during the war years.

“Everybody was involved in defense,” said Ward, who remembers working at the Bulova Watchcase factory, which had been re-tooled to manufacture telescope sights for the war effort.

Said Boziwick at the end of Tuesday’s dedication: “I would hope their children and grandchildren, if they’re living here, do take the time to visit this beautiful memorial and remember the sacrifice those wonderful relatives made to serve the United States of America in that conflict of World War II.”



Veterans Day, Sag Harbor, 2008

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