Editor's note: In Saturday's OBSERVER, Mayor Richard Frey released the cost of the Memorial Park project - $173,000 total. In today's article, Frey discusses why it was important to honor the veterans in this manner.
By GIB SNYDER
OBSERVER City Editor
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Dunkirk Mayor Richard Frey is shown as he talks Friday about the Memorial Park renovation project and its costs
Honoring the veterans who have served the United States and helped keep it free is something most people do, sometimes in their own way.
Dunkirk Mayor Richard Frey is someone who honors veterans and has done so with the renovation of the Memorial Park area dedicated to those veterans.
While some may say he spent too much on the project, $173,000, the mayor stood tall Friday and said he, and no one else, was responsible. A decorated veteran of the Korean conflict, Frey gave an impassioned speech of sorts about the veterans, including some from Dunkirk.
At present the park has eight monuments with another set for installation, a POW/MIA monument paid for with funds raised by the local VFW post, according to Frey.
"You know, it's said it's lighted and it's kind of separated and it looks like a cemetery. Well, I don't want the memories to die in that place. Our veterans that have served our country. It may look like a cemetery. There's a lot of dead ones there. Believe me, it represents a lot of death but it also pays and shows an awful lot of memories," the mayor said Friday. "I started out going down through this and if I should at any time show some emotion or wear something on my sleeve, I apologize to you in advance.
"On the wall down there around the monument that used to carry the flagpole, the one-piece wooden flagpole in the city, on the base of that is the names of the veterans that served in World War I. There's 1,050 on that. We move on to World War II, which is probably the greatest generation, we all know that. Probably over 4,000 veterans, my brother served in that war."
The mayor then took the time to talk about a Dunkirk man with a thankless job during WWII.
"I think Charley Casale, who worked for Western Union, had the most treacherous job that could possibly have happened. He was the gentleman that delivered the telegram to your next-door neighbor or to your aunt or your uncle or someone to tell them that your son has been killed in action, missing in action or wounded in action," Frey said. "Terrible. He knew exactly what that telegram said in that envelope when he knocked on your door. I know. I was there the day that Junie Borgeson's mother and father received theirs on Seventh Street, that their son Junie was killed at sea."
Frey noted the Frank Acquavia Post in the city was founded by veterans of Italian descent who wanted to honor one of their own who died in WWII. He then turned to people he knows that served.
When I think of the greatest guys in the greatest generation, I think of a gentleman, a former councilman who lives on upper Washington Avenue, that suffered from malaria in the South Pacific and to this day still carries those effects," he said. "I think of the guy over on Swan Street that served on a submarine over in the 300 block and he still bears a lot of memories of that. I think of the guy that I knew growing up around here and after the war could hardly see, he lost most of his sight from malnutrition on the Death March on Bataan as a POW."
Frey didn't forget those who supported the troops at home.
"One of the most important people we can't forget in this time from the greatest generation in World War II is Rosie the Riveter. That was a lady at home that worked in the defense plants. Made the planes, made the boats, made the bullets, made the bombs," he said. "Also the group of ladies that worked at the hospital every day, six and seven days a week, doing nothing but wrapping bandages."
Frey wondered what it cost to support the various WWII memorials, including Normandy.
"You think of Normandy, the sea of red blood. I wonder what it costs to maintain and take care of that cemetery that shows all of us Normandy and the price that we paid," he said. "I think of the Battle of the Bulge and I think of this young man that works for the Chamber of Commerce who proudly wears a button on his lapel as a Purple Heart veteran.
"I think back to World War II and after and I think of the young group of men that all came home, didn't have jobs, didn't have housing, didn't have anything, but they formed the Odd Jobbers in the city of Dunkirk. There's a few of them left, not many, but they went out and they did everything they possibly could do to finance and take care of themselves. They weren't there at the handout line. They went out and did what they had to do to make a buck."
Frey then talked of the war he fought in.
"I think of Korea and I move on to it and I think of Jack Mathers, first one killed in Dunkirk. I wonder what his sister, Annie Matyjakowski up in GSA, or former Mayor Madylon Kubera - it was her brother; I wonder what they'd give to have him back and grow up with us?" he asked. "Johnny Naetzker, First Cav. I spent probably two hours with him when they were coming up on line to relieve us two weeks prior to Johnny (being) killed.
"I think of Korea and I think of the Frozen Chosen, 40 degrees below zero. Inchon, the landing there. Pusan perimeter, the Iron Triangle, Pork Chop Hill, Heartbreak Ridge. Then I go to Vietnam.
"I think of the guy over to the Post Office that carries the wounds that he carried home with him and the handicap he has today. I think of the retired cop on Fifth Street who has suffered tremendously from the effects of Agent Orange. To the young guy up on West Green Street, a little short guy. I had to think, when he told me Vietnam, I had to think he was a tunnel rat he was so short. That's what they used to use them for.
"I wonder what Edziu Kaus would give to have his brother back home? You know Vietnam had their Pork Chop Hill, they had their Heartbreak Ridge. Today we have Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, men and women, this is what's so frightening today. You know, whether it was the greatest generation back 60-70 years ago, or whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan today, the blood was red then, the blood is red today."
The mayor then asked and answered some questions.
"Did I plant too many trees? I don't know, I don't think so," he said. "Did I lay too many pavers? I don't think so. Did I replace the rotted flower boxes that were down there and falling over and that? Yes I did. Did I light the trees and did I light the monuments and rearrange it? Yes I did. Did I spend too much? I don't think so.
"I don't want to let happen what happened to us from the forgotten war when we came home, and I refuse to have our veterans come home today and be spit on as they were from Vietnam. That's not going to happen."
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