COLLINS - There will be a permanent dedication to the late Staff Sgt. James Hackemer, who was from the town of Collins, in the town park. The town dedicated a flagpole in Hackemer's honor Monday.
Town Supervisor David Tessmer led the dedication ceremony with a "heavy heart," he said. Hackemer, who was in the Army, was born in Springville and attended Gowanda High School. He moved away his sophomore year only to return to graduate in 2000. He enlisted in the Army following high school and completed basic training in Missouri for military police.
"In 2003, he did his first tour," Tessmer said.
OBSERVER Photo by Samantha McDonnell
A flagpole dedicated to the late James Hackemer now stands in the Collins Town Park.
Hackemer would do another tour in 2007. While deployed in early 2008, Hackemer was injured and lost both his legs in a roadside attack.
"His armored vehicle hit a roadside bomb," Tessmer stated.
Hackemer suffered a traumatic brain injury and was flown to Germany before being transferred to Bethesda, Md. He was then transferred to Boston for therapy.
"James was happy to be alive," Tessmer said.
Hackemer died in July 2011 as a result of a theme park accident. He was the youngest of six children of John Jr. and Nancy. He was the father to Kaelynn Rose and Addison Grace.
"A mom and dad lost a son, two beautiful girls lost their dad and a country lost a hero," Tessmer said. "(His) girls loved their daddy deeply."
The flagpole celebrates Hackemer's "remarkable courage and bravery." At the base, a plaque has Hackemer's name and rank. Tessmer hopes future town residents will come and ask who Hackemer was.
"It's more than a flagpole. It's a man who fought for us, a song who died for us so we could stand here today," Tessmer said.
During the ceremony, Onna Wilson sang the National Anthem and the Lord's Prayer. Elliott Tessmer read a passage to honor veterans.
Members from VFW Post 5007 were present for a 21-gun salute as well as the playing of Taps.
Tessmer thanked multiple people for helping with the dedication of the flagpole including Gowanda Harley Davidson, Gernatt Asphalt Products, Mentley Funeral Home, VFW Post 5007 Honor Guard, Mary Clark and the rest of the Collins Town Board, Erie County Legislator John Mills and Gowanda Mayor Heather McKeever.
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