Democrat Photos by Ted Waddell
JACOB FEIGENBUTZ OF Obernburg, 8, salutes his great-grandfather Paul Yonchik of Hortonville, who served in WWII (Marine in the Pacific Theatre) and Korea (Navy aboard the sub tender U.S.S. Klondike). See page 1B for more coverage.
Veterans Flock To Long Eddy
By Ted Waddell
LONG EDDY November 14, 2006 Beyond all the flags, pomp and circumstance of Veterans’ Day are the voices giving life and meaning to the memories of those who served the nation’s call to arms, either in peacetime or in conflicts raging around the world.
On Veterans’ Day 2006, the Alan Milk VFW Post 7276 of Long Eddy presented their annual service at the local firehouse, followed by a dinner prepared by the ladies auxiliary.
A few of the vets talked about what Veterans’ Day means to them.
Lt. Col. Bill Brustman of Obernburg proudly wears an embroidered cap that, if you look closely, tells a lot about what makes this local patriot tick, the level of his dedication to the value of freedom and what it means to serve his country as a combat infantryman in three wars: WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
He joined the U.S. Army on September 11, 1941 and retired on May 1, 1964. By serving as a combat infantry in three wars, Lt. Col. Brustman is one of about 300 soldiers in the United States who are entitled to wear a combat infrantyman’s badge from WWII with two stars, one each for serving his country in Korea and Vietnam.
“About 300 of us in the entire Army received the right to wear this badge,” said Brustman, whose name is inscribed on a monument at Ft. Benning, GA., the headquarters for combat infantry training.
Asked what Veterans’ Day means to him, the county’s most decorated living soldier replied, “God help us, it took on a whole new picture since I’ve been retired, and I want to tell you, look at my cap and you can tell where I’ve been.”
“I have a tough time dealing with what’s going on today,” he added. “I’m somewhat beyond myself dealing with it.”
Lt. Col. Brustman has been in a retirement home over in Narrowsburg for the last year or so, and wasn’t going to ask anybody for a ride upstream to Long Eddy so he could attend the Veterans’ Day ceremony.
But the day before, he watched soldiers in action in a television broadcast from Iraq.
“There was advance and movement up on the line, [and] that was so close it moved me,” he said.
So the Lt. Colonel called up a friend and fellow vet to hitch a ride up to Long Eddy.
“I called up Dick [Hubert] and said ‘Come get me, cause I had to be here,’” said Brustman.
A few weeks ago, Don Milk, the recently passed commander of the local VFW Post, paid a visit to Brustman.
“We lost our commander, the father of Alan Milk who the post is named after,” said Brustman.
“There are not many of us running around anymore from that group,” he added of his WWII comrades-in-arms.
Lt. Col. Brustman will soon be honored by inclusion in the NYS Veteran’s Hall of Honor.
Bruce Pecsi, a soldier who served with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam (1967-68) “in a little place called Xuan Loc” is the post’s new commander.
“The Colonel is a gentleman, well respected in the community,” he said. “Bill Brustman is our main dog.”
“Veterans’ Day is a special day in the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere,” Pecsi added. “For those who are still fighting and for those who have given their lives to keep America free, and to all patriots, we salute you… Veterans’ Day is also a day to remember our fathers and to all the wars and battles that where fought to make this country free, from the Revolutionary War to present day Iraq… from the patriots of the New England states to the modern day soldier… Veterans’ Day is a time to never forget… ”
Art Flynn served for 31⁄2 years (1966-69) aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, making two trips around the world as the giant aircraft carrier sailed from Norfolk to battle stations off Vietnam.
On one sojourn, they traveled through the Suez Canal and had to batten down the hatches due to an approaching sand storm.
“It was a weird feeling standing up on the deck seeing sand on both sides of you,” he recalled.
What does Veterans’ Day mean?
“It means honoring the living veteran, especially now with all the veterans that are in Iraq… for the ones who are putting their lives on the line right now in harm’s way,” said Flynn.
Father Ignatius “Iggy” Smith, of Holy Cross Church in Callicoon and the local parish in Long Eddy, served as a Navy Chaplin for 231⁄2 years.
Father Smith served his God and country in the Pacific, Atlantic, Japan, Hawaii, 29 Palms Marine Corps Base, Quantico MCB, Norfolk Navy Base and aboard several ships including the U.S.S. Nimitz, U.S.S. Sanctuary and U.S.S. Capdonia.
“Veterans’ Day means to me that we honor all our men and women who have served and worn the uniform with great honor to make it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms that we have here today.” he said.
During the ceremony, Betty Ringgenberg, VFW ladies auxiliary color bearer (among her many titles), presented an American Flag to James Rynearson, chief of the Long Eddy Volunteer Fire Department.
“This is a day that we set aside every year to honor our veterans, no matter what branch of the service they served in,” said Ringgenberg.
“Veterans’ Day means peace on earth for everybody,” said Rynearson, who served in the U.S.M.C. from 1970-73.
Several members of the recreated Civil War 143rd NYVI were present and accounted for on Veterans’ Day 2006, including Brett Michael Dirie, 4, second grandson to Dennis Bernitt, and 11-year old Tyler Bernitt.
“Veterans’ Day means everything,” said Bernitt who served in Chulia, Vietnam with the America Division’s 198th infantry Brigade (1966-68).
“I went in September 1966 and graduated basic training on Veterans’ Day 40 years ago today at Fort Hood, Texas and from that day, I knew I was part of the brotherhood… I will never forget.”
Chuck Young served with the 3rd USMC Air Wing in Vietnam (1969-72) in Chulia and Danang.
“For me, it’s a day we can remember all veterans,” he said. “Memorial Day is for remembering the dead, but this day is for remembering everybody who served, past and present, a day for all veterans.”
Arnold Baum of Callicoon is a member of VFW Post 5808. He saw action during WWII at the Battle of the Bulge, and later served for 20 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
“Veterans’ Day? It’s the opportunity for this generation to get together and show our respect and our thanks to all the veterans,” he said.
Sandy Garzone, along with Andy Brucher, Alan Milk, Irwin Kaplan and Frank Leonardo were drafted into the Army out of Monticello on November 5, 1965.
After basic training, it was off to war in Southeast Asia, in a place called Vietnam.
“Out of that bunch, Alan Milk and Andy Brucher were killed in Vietnam,” said Garzone, who saw action with the 11th Armored Cavalry “tanks, armor, all of it” from 1966-67.
Thirty days before he returned stateside, a friend was killed by enemy fire.
“A guy told me he’s dead, but I said ‘He’s not dead until we stop remembering him or we forget him’,” recalled Garzone.
“By naming the posts after Milk and Brucher, they’ll never be forgotten,” he said. “It’s a very right thing to do.”
Why does one soldier live, while others around him are killed?
Survivors always search for the answer.
“I was very lucky,” said Garzone. “God watches out for fools and drunks, and I was both of ’em then. That’s why I made it back.”