An honor to have served

Larry Tetamore/Special to The Livingston County News Art Hernandez, foreground, a Vietnam War veteran, salutes during the June 14 dedication of the Livingston County Veterans Monument in Mount Morris.

On the 14th of June, I was humbled to stand in the presence of a very special group. The Livingston County Veterans Monument project my wife and I had worked on with the greatest group of people you will ever meet, was finally being formally dedicated.

As all those involved will attest to, it was no small journey getting to that day. As my wife and I walked up towards the monument, it felt like we were at a family reunion. As we made our was through the people who had gathered for the ceremony, it became very clear to me that this was, in fact, a true “family” reunion. No matter how different we otherwise may be, we will always have one thing in common, we served our country as soldiers.

When I decided to join the United States Air Force in September 1965, I had no idea how much that decision would impact the rest of my life. I knew my Dad and three of my uncles had served during World War II, but I never fully understood how significant their service was until I was much older and had read extensively about “The Greatest Generation.”

The inspiration to learn more about my parent’s generation came in the form of a cherished book my aunt had written with my Uncle Earl while he was dying of cancer. He, as most veterans of World War II, never spoke much of their experiences during the war and my Aunt wanted their children to know what their father had contributed to our country. She insisted that I should have a copy of this book and it opened my eyes to a very special period in history and the men I had only known as Uncle Earl, Uncle Obie and Uncle Oscar.

I did a lot of “growing up” in those four years and learned the meaning of life-long friendships. It would be an understatement to say the 60’s were very turbulent years for our country, both at home and in a little known country named Vietnam. Vietnam was my generations war and, as in World War II, young men were once again drafted into the service of their country.

It was truly an honor to work on the poppies with fellow Veterans Rory Benklemen, Roger Johnson, Joe DiTucci, Dan Lofurno, Ray Arieno, Stan Lubanski, Dennis Staley, Paul Saeva, Paul Holubek, John Paul Holubek, Bob Holevinski, Tom Reynolds and all the other veterans and family members who worked so hard to complete this project. In spite of all the “bumps in the road,” you persevered and helped produce an amazing monument honoring our Veterans.

To see the other Veterans and participants in the project view the Livingston County Veterans Monument video at https://youtu.be/M5x_zoeOKsQ.

And at the June 14th dedication, I was both proud and humbled to stand between veterans who, in my mind, signify the importance of what service to our country is. Dick is a U.S. Navy World War II and Korean War Veteran who will be 97 in October. He is our nation’s “Greatest Generation.” Thank you Dick Bondi for your service to our country.

And Art Hernandez, my closest friend and a Vietnam War veteran, who came by himself to this country from Cuba when he was 13. Art wears his passion and love of our country “on his sleeve” and openly expresses how blessed he is to be an American and a veteran.

To all my fellow veterans, thank you for your service. As the veterans stood in the rain on that day at the Livingston County Veterans Monument, it is the veteran who stands in the face of the “storm” of war.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1