Veterans’ Day Commemorated in the North Country

Nov 12, 2013

segment of Plattsburgh Barracks Veterans Park memorial wall
Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley

Veterans ceremonies were held across New York’s north country, including commemorations honoring aging veterans and youth corps.

At the Plattsburgh Barracks Veterans Park on the oval of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base, 15 flags fly above a memorial to those who have served the country. Veterans Service Agency Director Steve Bowman explained their significance.

“The flags represent all of the military branches of service. The other row of  flags symbolize the major veterans organizations that are here in Clinton County and we thought it would be very appropriate to have those here in the park.”

Plattsburgh Barracks Veterans Park flags
Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley

The flags are lowered every Veterans Day to protect them from vicious winter winds and are raised again on Memorial Day. Steve Bowman led the ceremony.

“Veterans Day is a day to  remember and to honor those that have served and spent most of their life serving our nation, not only in uniformed service, but after service. Many of the veterans are still doing things for our community and it’s more than fitting to recognize, especially our WWII veterans, because when they came home, they helped build this nation. And we’re here today to honor them , and all other persons that served in the military whether it be in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq or Afghanistan. This is a day to remember and reflect and to honor.”

Those gathered honored one veteran for his service in Word War II. 91-year-old Joseph Burnell served from 1942 to 1945 and was discharged as a private.  Bowman explained that it was discovered during a recent Honor Flight that he had never received four medals - the POW medal, Army Good Conduct medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal with two bronze stars, and the WWII Victory Medal.

“We also have his honorable lapel pin and Joe, I salute you for your military service.  This is an honor any time we can  recognize someone for military service for their  medals. But here's a case where Joe served ‘42 to ‘45, we’re talking seventy years ago, and he’s just now getting his medals. And I want to salute you, Joe, and thank you very much.”

Joseph Burnell says “I never expected them.  Why should I get them this late in my life?  I appreciate them, some of the older veterans should have this recognition. My name is Bev Burnell,  I'm his eldest daughter. We are just thrilled that he isfinally getting recognition or something we've always thought he needed recognition for.  Just seemed very odd.  He was a POW for a year and a half in Poland and to not have any recognition of any of that seemed very surprising.”

91 year-old Joseph Burnell receives WW II medals
Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley

Later in the day in the center city, a group of Civil Air Patrol Cadets and their commanders gathered at the base of an empty flag pole in front of the old federal building, now the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts.

For cadet airman Dale Gray, participating in Veterans Day commemorations is part of a family heritage.

“My entire family is  military oriented, and I feel a strong urge to honor the veterans. My uncle died in 9/11. He was at the  Pentagon. He was a  first-class petty officer in the Navy, and it's an extreme honor for me to be out here for them.”

Cadet Airman Dale Gray and Civil Air Patrol cadets raise American flag
Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley

As Cadet Gray helped raise the flag, his father, Navy veteran Richard Gray, looked on.

“I’m very proud of him. We have a long, long military history.  My father was retired Air Force. My grandfather is a World War II veteran,  disabled veteran. His uncle was killed at the Pentagon  9/11. His office window was point of impact. They couldn’t even find DNA. There's just  a strong military background, and I'm proud of all my vets, just a lot of pride.”