Morash Remembers the Fallen

Remarks as delivered by Brett Morash, Ph.D., Memorial Day 2018, New Rochelle, New York.

Thank you Mayor

It is quite an honor to be here today representing those who have and continue to serve in uniform. I want to thank everyone for coming here today with a special thanks to:

Mayor Noam Bramson, I wanted to personally thank you for your leadership in establishing the Veteran Advisory Committee to help set the conditions of success for veterans and their families in New Rochelle.

I want to thank the members of the City Council who continue to work toward bringing together the community and make needed change to enhance veteran services.

City Manager Chuck Strome and his staff who continue to advocate for supporting the veteran community in New Rochelle.

Commander Tommy O’Keefe of American Legion Post 9.

VFW Post 429 Commander Peter Parente who is also the President of United Veterans Memorial Association.  Pete is down at Glen Island making sure the events down there are carried out with military precision.

I want to thank my Fellow New Rochelle Veteran Advisory Committee members.

Of course, I want to thank all of the veterans and their families who have come out here today. Especially the veterans of…

WWII

Korean War

Vietnam War

The Cold War

and the ongoing Post 9/11 Conflicts

Memorial Day is officially a day that we remember those that have fallen. Personally, I feel it is also a day to remember veterans of conflict that have gone before us as well. Yesterday in the deluge volunteers went to visit the graves of service men and women who have served our nation to ensure those veterans were taken care of and flags placed at graveside to ensure that we recognize those who have held the line and have gone before us. In that vein I also feel that it is important to recognize that many of those graves hold the remains of New Rochellians and each one has a story that is important to the fabric of the veteran experience in the City.

Three of the veterans’ I will discuss today who are buried in New Rochelle cemeteries received the nation’s highest award for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. While neither man was born in New Rochelle, they chose to come here and make it their home.

The first, an immigrant, from Liverpool England was, Pvt. Richard Beddows.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War by successfully recovering his unit’s flag during the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse.  Under fire he returned the flag to the Union lines. He is interred at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery along with a number of other men from his Civil War unit.

Second is Sergeant William B. Lewis U.S. Army, who fought a two-day skirmish against American Indian warriors while serving with the Brave Rifles of the U.S. 3rd Cavalry. He is buried in Beechwoods Cemetery.

Final Medal of Honor recipient, born in Ohio, was Col Robert Temple Emmet a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was awarded the Medal of Honor while fighting Apache Indian Warriors where he effected a one man holding action while his unit withdrew against an estimated 200 enemy … he came to New Rochelle after marrying into the Van Courtlandt Family, following retirement from the Army… he also lies in Beechwoods Cemetery

This year we have three significant anniversaries that I wanted to discuss today and how they relate to New Rochelle.

… the Battle of Hue in Vietnam was 50 years ago arguably the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War where 216 U.S. Marines and U.S. Army Soldiers lost their lives.  While it appears from my research that New Rochelle didn’t lose any of its citizens at Hue, at least one New Rochellian was for certain present at the Battle of Hue, a woman, freelance war correspondent Jurate Kazickas class of 1960 from Ursuline H.S. who covered the battle reporting for the Associated Press.  However, I should be acknowledged that New Rochelle did lose eleven of its sons during the Vietnam War itself.

Eight of them are Marines

  • (Privates First Class) James Barbour
  • James Eisner
  • Thelbert Allyson James
  • Walter Hammerschlag
  • (Lance Corporals) Robert Lysaght
  • O’Neal Wright
  • Ronald Edwards
  • and Corporal John Lewis Olson

And three in the Army…

  • (Privates First Class) Hezekiah George
  • William Newsome
  • and Specialist Frederick Carraturo

It is important to note that the Vietnam War also claimed lives after they had returned home for example my father in law 1st Lieutenant Richard Kavanaugh U.S. Army died of Agent Orange related illness 7 years after he returned from Vietnam.

This year is also the anniversary of the culmination of Korean War resulting in the Armistice 65 years ago on 27 July 1953.  An armistice we are still contending with as the U.S. Army continues to garrison South Korea, and the Navy and Air Force are always watching from sea, air and space.

Over the course of the Korean War New Rochelle lost three of her sons.

Two Marines

  • Private First Class Frank Emanuel Jr.
  • and Corporal Kenny James Roger

One Airforce

  • 2nd Lieutenant Fred Dinapoli

The final anniversary I want to highlight today, and do a little more of a deep dive on, is the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I. New Rochelle had a very special place with respect to our involvement in that war. It is clear that hundreds of New Rochellians served overseas and based on my research no less than 49 were killed in the trenches of Western Europe or in the Atlantic. These were local kids that grew up on the streets and in the homes of New Rochelle that went on to do the extraordinary. Five of those New Rochellians who served earned the second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross and a sixth who earned the French equivalent the Croix de Guerre the War Cross twice as he had volunteered to join the French prior to the U.S. entry into the war.

The first of these New Rochellian heroes of WWI was John J. Finn who held the Rank of Mechanic which was the equivalent in a WWI way to a Specialist in the modern Army … he earned the Distinguished Service Cross on 19 July 1918.  His citation states that he “left shelter and went forward under heavy shell and machine-gun fire and rescued five wounded soldiers. While in the performance of this gallant act he and another soldier attacked an enemy dugout, killing two of the enemy and taking one prisoner.” He grew up at 116 Washington Ave.

Next…

2nd Lieutenant William Eddy USMC who was serving with the Sixth Marine Regiment, 2nd Division, he was awarded the DSC for collecting battlefield intelligence during the Battle of Belleau Wood.  … He grew up on 125 Center Ave …

Third was…

2nd Lieutenant John Burke … who grew up at 544 Webster Ave … his citation states that he was instructed by his regimental commander to take four men and locate the position of a lost battalion. Upon leaving regimental headquarters he was severely wounded but continued on his mission in the face of heavy artillery and machine-gun fire. He succeeded in locating the battalion after four hours’ search, constantly under fire, whereupon he returned and reported to his regimental commander.

Next and frankly one of the most exciting and daring medal citations I have ever seen is…

2nd Lieutenant Charles Pullman Porter… who grew up at 143 Beechmont Drive…  he received 2 separate DSC’s for aerial combat. I found the second of his DFCs particularly exciting…  The citation outlined that during one dawn patrol he was leading a group of twelve fighters planes when they engaged an equal number of German Fokkers. As they came into the merge he shot down one enemy aircraft, but his gun jammed.  He stood up in the cockpit to try to fix the weapon but was only able to charge it with a single bullet.  Dropping back into his seat he continued to maneuver for position and after getting behind an enemy plane shot it down with that single round before returning to base.

Fifth and arguably the most perilous of the citations

Captain Hamilton K. Foster… earned the DFC by singlehandedly storming and then capturing an enemy machine gun position allowing his battalion to advance.  Interestingly he grew up down the street from Lieutenant Eddy at 211 Center Ave.

***Lots of Hero’s from Center Ave… Mayor… I think might need to consider making a recommendation from the Veterans Advisory Committee to rename it***

and finally,

Lt Grenville Temple Keogh… Who served in the French Air Service after volunteering to serve in the French Ambulance Corps.  He was awarded two Croix de Guerre, the first while serving as an Ambulance Driver and the second as a fighter pilot. He was seriously wounded in September of 1917 and returned to the United States. … He grew up at 25 Neptune Road…

But it wasn’t just the heroes in Europe that made New Rochelle’s experience special if not unique.  Back at home the City of New Rochelle rallied behind the call to arms and was instrumental in the training and deployment of tens of thousands of troops to Europe. Early on the Army base at Ft. Slocum on Davis Island would be transformed into a critical facility for troops staging and deploying to France.  Testament to the community willingness to rally for the effort during the blizzard of December 1917, over 800 troops were unable to be ferried over to the island. The troops were instead berthed in private homes, churches, synagogues, and the YMCA until the ferry service could restart.

While I have elaborated on many of the great deeds of men who fought in WWI I also wanted to point out that it was the women of New Rochelle who formed the backbone of many of the volunteer services in the City including supporting Ft. Slocum, assisting New Rochellians going overseas, and leading refugee relief efforts.  I found a quote by Mrs. Mary Houston Gregory, Chairwoman of the Food Conservation Committee of New Rochelle, who says it more eloquently that I ever could: (quote)

The record of the women of New Rochelle in the war is one upon which they may look with honest pride. New Rochelle answered every call of duty and interwoven with every service rendered by men was the sustaining work of the women, who did their part so nobly that they added a page that will ever remain bright in the history of our city. (end quote)

This was no small feat as the women of New Rochelle set up organizations and committees to create medical supplies including surgical dressings for the Red Cross, assisting soldiers by sewing, knitting, mending… they ran the canteen, and even drove vehicles American Red Cross Motor Corps. They led the drive to recruit volunteer nurses and trained them before deploying overseas.  They organized the Belgian Relief effort for refugees affected by the war. They worked in community gardens or at schools and churches to organize working parties. They set up dances and vaudeville acts for the Soldiers and Sailors Club among other social services. This is just a small portion of the greater work of the women of New Rochelle.

It wasn’t just adults who made a significant effort for even the children of New Rochelle helped. During my research three statistics jumped out …

First, the Junior Red Cross Unit of New Rochelle High School made 17,695 surgical dressings, 30 hospital bags, 20 jackets, filled 170 comfort bags, and made 8899 “refugee garments” impressive by any measure

Second and pmore intriguing, the New Rochelle’s Quaker Ridge School (which I think is Ward now) sold more war savings stamps than any school in the nation.  They sold $1,525 worth of stamps, worth nearly $27,000 today. This impressive feat was rewarded by the school being issued a brass plaque from the National Education Association.  To further show how incredible this was there were only 5 students at this school. Those kids knew how to hustle.

Third was that the Boy Scouts sold $845,350 worth of Liberty Bonds.

I bring all of this up because it really highlights the whole community approach toward supporting the nation and of course the veteran community as well. That same sentiment burns brightly today in our nation and most certainly here in the patriotic city of New Rochelle.

We continue to blaze new paths in the veteran community. New Rochelle has recently established the Veteran Advisory Committee to provide guidance and recommendations to City Hall on the myriad of veteran’s issues.  Its member’s appointed due to their knowledge of the veteran space and willingness to serve the community.

The City continues to make steps toward including enriching the STAR rebates for veterans based on their service and disability. I’m told we are one of the first communities to expand it to include school board taxes.

Recently, the City under the aegis of the City Manager and his team were able to secure a $1,000,000 grant to stabilize the Naval Armory.  Hopefully setting the stage for its re-purposing as part of the greater efforts to enhance New Rochelle for the future.

Finally, I ask you to consider is what can you do to support the veteran community.  Find out who the veterans are in your neighborhood, and don’t just thank them for their service, ask them what they did in uniform… where they served…

To quote President John F. Kennedy, a World War II Navy Veteran and a Purple Heart recipient, (quote) As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them (end quote)

There is no more relevant time to embrace this quote than today Memorial Day. You can make a difference in a veteran’s life. If you know of a family who has a member in military, ask how they are doing.  When they are getting out?  If they are planning on coming back to New Rochelle?

If they are, ask yourself what you can do to help them.  Can you make an introduction for a job or even give them one? What does their family need?

In closing, I would ask as you leave here keep the fallen in your minds and their families and friends in your heart their collective sacrifices is what keeps country safe and free. And as long as we continue to honor them with our actions and remember, they will never be forgotten.

Thank you for your time today and God Bless.

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By |2018-05-29T11:13:01+00:00May 29th, 2018|