Childhood memory of Ripley resident prompts creation of Vietnam veterans tribute
By KIM LUX
UNION CITY, Pa. — Twenty-five fallen heroes, including a former Ripley resident, who lost their lives during the Vietnam War were honored at a Union City Homecoming Parade over the weekend.
Blain Blakeslee, of Union City, and his daughter, Charity Albrecht, have spent almost a year creating a float that paid tribute to several men from the Corry and Union City areas.
“At the young age of 7, I attended my first funeral,” Blakeslee recalled. “It was for my cousin Gerald, “Jerry,” Carr who was killed in Vietnam and left behind a young, pregnant wife. The sorrow I witnessed that day made an enormous impact on me and I haven’t forgotten it almost 50 years later.
“My daughter and I decided to build a float in memory of Jerry, and during the process we felt it wouldn’t be right not to include all the other local heroes who died during the war,” he added.
Blakeslee and Albrecht spent several hours researching fallen Vietnam veterans who resided in the local area.
In addition to Carr, who was from North East and lived in Ripley when he left for Vietnam, those being honored include the late Colin Nichols, of Spartansburg; Monte Gates, of Corry; George Tinko, of Corry; Leroy Fladry, of Union City; Danny Flanders, of Waterford; James Galkowski, of Wattsburg; James Zboyovski, of Wattsburg; and many others from the surrounding area.
The float features a giant faux-stone wall listing the names of the 25 honored veterans in the background. At the foreground, Blakeslee and Albrecht have built a tombstone with a widow and young child kneeling next to it. Behind the pair, is the ghost of a soldier.
“I asked Keith Peterson of Eagle Specialized Professional Foaming Co., in Union City, to spray the entire thing in fake snow to give it a winter look,” Blakeslee said. “Keith donated his time for free and was happy to help with this endeavor.”
As the float made its way along the parade route, onlookers heard “Amazing Grace” being played on the bagpipes.
“When the music starts, that’s when we expect the tears,” Blakeslee said before the event. “That song just renders such an emotional response from people.”
The float originally made its debut on Sept. 9, during the Spartansburg Community Fair parade.
“We’re very excited about this project and we’re so happy to finally share it with the community,” Blakeslee said.
Reprinted with permission from The Corry Journal.