Who Lives – Who Dies –
Who Tells the Story
by Lynne Belluscio
It was very cold and snowy on Monday November 11 – Veteran’s Day. I drove up to the Legion and sat and talked with Chip Graney. “What do you think? Should we move into the auditorium?” The conversation was quick. “No. We owe it to them. They endured a lot more than some snow.” There was a good crowd. Vietnam Vets. The American Legion. The police department in their new uniforms. Three kids from the color guard of the Marching Knights. Gary Scott’s family and Harry Van Alst’s family. Folks from the Historical Society had a tent and hot coffee and doughnuts. Merritt Holley, came out from the school with the PA system and he and Bruno DeFazio ran the extension cords out to the monument. And then Chip Graney welcomed everyone and shared the story of Veteran’s Day and the American Legion. A prayer was read by the Post Chaplin and then Hailey Grasso, in her clear strong voice sang the National Anthem. A few days ago, I asked Mike Vinci if he would read his poem “What’s In a Name” and he said he would like John Riggi to read it. John is a veteran of the Marine Corps – 1990-1995 and an Army Veteran 2008-2016 Desert Storm, Operation Iraq Freedom. Then we had the last Roll Call for Gary Scott and Harry Van Alst, Jr. followed by the Dedication. “Decades from now, people will visit this place and read these two names – men they never met and never knew but they will know that these two men had the gratitude and love of this community. And they also will know that these men sacrificed their lives and the lives of the families they never had. We honor them with this memorial. But also, let us honor them by making sure that our young people have the encouragement and the skills to achieve their dreams. That this community will continue to nurture and support all our young people who envision a better world. We owe it to these two men.”
It was time to lay the wreaths at the monument and Frank Panepento played “God Bless America” on the trumpet. The Legion Honor Guard raised their rifles and we all braced for the noise. One, Two Three as the salute resounded off the buildings. Samantha Platek raised her trumpet and played taps, and Frank Panepento played the haunting echo. I guess what I noticed, was that people didn’t want to leave. They wanted to share stories of these two young men from LeRoy who had died in Vietnam.