Ripley Central School students join with veterans to honor history

Photo by David Prenatt Marine Master Sergeant Robert McIntosh speaks to Ripley elementary students about the meaning of the Veterans’ Memorial while State Sen. Catharine Young looks on.

RIPLEY — On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of 1918, fighting in World War One ceased. One hundred years later, also at the 11th hour, students from Ripley Central School stood in the cold rain with veterans and State Sen. Catharine Young to honor all those who have answered the call to serve our country in the armed forces.

The 2018 Veterans’ Day observance ceremony was held on Friday, Nov. 9, so the students could participate. Marine Master Sergeant Robert McIntosh served as emcee for the ceremony, which included a history of the Veterans’ Memorial, the unveiling of a purple heart addition, and the setting of a wreath for Blue/Gold Star families.

Young, who was instrumental in obtaining funding to construct the memorial in 2008, spoke as the guest of honor.

“I wanted to be here today to say thank you to our veterans from Ripley, NY who have served our country so valiantly,” she said.

Young also announced that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill that Young promoted, which gives recognition to Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to the chemical known as Agent Orange and who have suffered physical effects from that exposure. She also noted that Chautauqua County now has a peer-to-peer counseling service for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

VFW 2769 Post Commander D.A. Bower shared a brief history of the Ripley Veterans’ Memorial. The memorial, which was first dedicated on November 11, 2008, the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, emerged from the vision of now-deceased veteran Roger Testrake.

Testrake conducted extensive research to collect as much information on Ripley veterans as possible, Bower said.

The memorial itself came about after much research and study, Bower noted. Everything about the memorial symbolizes the sacrifices and valor of veterans, and each symbol was explained in the program. For example, the red center column symbolizes the blood that was shed to maintain freedom. The granite stones are shaped as tombstones to remember the service and sacrifice of veterans.

The unbreakable glass cases represent “the shield that keeps war and terror from home.”

Since this Veterans’ Day marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the first world war, “we want to dedicate this monument again,” Bower said. “I hope you understand what this means to all the veterans in our community.” He made note of the fact that there are now 969 names on the memorial.

A very moving part of the ceremony was the addition of Howard Freligh as a recipient of the Purple Heart. Howard’s son, Larry Freligh, chaplain of VFW Post 2769 read the citation, which told how Howard’s ship was struck and sank by two Japanese suicide boats during the Battle of Bataan .

Captain Galbraith III laid the wreath for the Blue Star and Gold Star families of Ripley, after which McIntosh recited the Warrior’s Prayer.