Why did you serve?

By THE (ONEONTA, N.Y.) DAILY STAR/MCT Published: May 18, 2013

Numerous local residents have spent time in service to our country in the military. Some joined out of a duty to our county, others were pressed into service through the draft, still others wanted to take advantage of the G.I. Bill. In honor of their service and Armed Forces Day on Saturday, the Oneonta (N.Y.) Daily Star asked its readers why they served and what they took away from their service. Here are their responses:


I had joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 through Oneonta's recruiting office. I entered the Marine Corps, oddly enough, on Sept. 11. The Gulf War was just about to get serious as I endured boot camp on Parris Island, S.C. The reason I entered the USMC was that I truly wanted to be the best, and the honor of being a United States Marine was a quest to be unrivaled. To be a Marine is something one takes with him through the rest of his life. The self-confidence and physical training proved to be a promising change for the better, as I would face life decisions and it's challenges in a new a confident prospective. As a veteran of Foreign Wars, I honor and respect all my fellow service members in a way only another service member could. Thank you to all military service personnel and God bless all their families.

Terrance Youngs of Portlandville


Why did I serve? I was doing nothing with my life up to that point, I wanted to be known for something, I wanted to contribute to my community, part of my service was National Guard. What I took away from the service was a deeper appreciation for our Constitution, a special kinship with those who are serving, or did serve regardless of what branch of service or what era in time, that I was not just my father's son, he and I both served (he was World War II, I was in the Persian Gulf war), and experiences I can share with youngsters who wish to join up.

Sgt. Thomas K. Miller of South Hartwick, U.S. Army (Ret.), Oct. 30, 1985, to Dec. 23, 2005


In the fall of 1963 I got laid off as a mason tender, which was a seasonal job. The apartment I was living in with my brother was too much for me to afford by myself, as my brother left to join the U.S. Navy. Being classified 1A for the draft and not wanting someone else deciding where I was going to serve, I also joined the Navy. The posters at the recruiting station said "Join the Navy and see the world.” And that I did. 

February is not the ideal time to go to the Great Lakes Training Center but there I was. After Boot Camp and a temporary duty at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, it was back to the Great Lakes for a 12-week school. Then it was on to Newport, R.I., to join the crew on the USS Thomas J. Gary DER-326. This was my home for the next two years and eight months.

During this span of time, I traveled around the world twice, stopping at 18 to 22 ports in many countries. I truly experienced the motto of "Join the Navy and See the World.” Serving my country was truly a life-changing experience that I would not ever want to change. It is an experience that teaches one respect, teamwork and responsibilities to name a few which will be needed for the rest of your life. I will stand tall and proud as a veteran of the U.S. Navy knowing I fulfilled my obligation to my country. May God bless all our veterans, past and present.

David K. Pierce of Milford, Engineman 2/C, U.S. Navy


I followed the tradition of my dad and brothers in serving. Following four years of ROTC in high school, I served in the Army from December 1979 to January 1983, at Fort Gordon, Ga., with the 67th. Signal Battalion. Following service-connected injuries, I served out my time under the battalion commander. I was a radio operator, sharp-shooter and office secretary. I served out of love of country. My Army experience honed my people skills, leadership skills, as well as organizational and coordination skills, which have all proven to be valuable in various endeavors since that time in my life. Most important during that time in the Army is I gave birth to my son and I gave my life to Christ through the witness of friends I met while stationed there. 

Sharon Wheeler of Oneonta


I joined due to country being in World War II. I felt that it was my duty to serve my country during this time. I left due to war ending and I had fulfilled my enlistment time.

John H. Lance of Oneonta, U.S. Navy, Seaman First Class


I joined the U.S. Coast Guard in March 1974 on delayed enlistment, and went to boot camp on Aug. 26, 1974.

I joined because my Uncle Charles Anthony Pick was in the U.S. Navy, my Uncle Charles Hund was in the U.S. Navy, and my Uncle Jack Flynn was in the U.S. Navy. I wanted to follow the tradition of being in a sea-going service. My shop teacher/mentor in high school Rick Miller of Long Island was ex-U.S. Coast Guard and brought me to the recruiter station to check out what it had to offer. I liked it and joined. 

I learned how to work as a team, how to give 110 percent to every task assigned. How to lead when needed and to follow orders without question when required. I learned how to run heavy equipment and pipe-fitting machinery. I learned that every person deserves respect until he shows otherwise. I learned to thank every current, retired or service veteran I see for their service to our country. Whether young or old they deserve our thanks for their sacrifice for our country. Without the older veterans we would all be speaking a different language. Without the new service members we could be dealing with 9/11-type problems on a regular basis. I just wish everyone would treat our men and women who served with the respect they deserve. 

I am grateful to this country for allowing me to represent it while in the U.S. Coast Guard. I am proud to have served from 1974 to 1978.

Bradley Pick of Harpersfield, USCG MK3


The reason I served is plain and simple: I was threatened by the president of the United States with a fine or imprisonment or both.

I was honored with 13 citations including the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, Luxembourg Croix de Guerre and the Medal of France. I have made 70 consecutive formation on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and I was wounded twice in Germany. This was my greeting from the president: “Willful failure to report promptly to this local board at the hour and on the day named in this notice is a violation of the selective training and service act of 1940 as amended and subjects the violator to fine and imprisonment.

Just a note to us when we went on guard duty from the G.I.: “Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut and never, ever volunteer."

Richard W. Signor of Walton, Sergeant Fourth Class, Army, “C” battery, 358 Field Artillery


I was in high school in 1943. I was 17 and was eligible to join the Home Guard, which I did. The Home Guard replaced the 27th division, which was called to active duty in 1940. 

In January of '44, the Army, Navy and Marines all sent to recruiters to the schools. Three of us who had gone through school and played sports together decided to join the Navy together, we had already joined the Home Guard together. The Navy recruiter told us we could stay home until graduation. The day after, we boarded a train in Walton and headed to Sampson for active duty; 12 went from our school. Only three of us stayed there; the other nine came home and chose to be drafted.

Being at war with Italy and being of Italian descent, I felt the best way for me to show my colors was to join the service. I did, I'm glad I fought in both theaters of war. I have six ribbons and two medals, one for bravery and valor. It may sound corny but I'm very very proud to be an American and have served so well. 

Charles P. Fiumera, 87, of Walton


Early in 1944, we knew we were at war! The War Effort was organized as a push to get civilians alerted to the many ways they could aid our troops. I was quite aware of the war. I experienced the rationing of many things, such as butter, nylon stockings, gas and meat. I could read the headlines about the terrible loss of lives. It was truly a World War. In my personal life, I was aware that many of my friends' homes displayed the American flag in their window, and I felt their loss. Men were leaving the work force to join the war effort, and women were need to take their place.

I had taken such a job in a large firm on Wall Street. One noon, I took my usual lunchtime and passed a recruiting office with a large poster of Uncle Sam — beckoning me with his finger. “We Need You!” There was my future. I was needed! I entered the recruiting office, along with a few dozen women heeding the call. We registered, took a quick physical, and told to return in a week — to get our lives ready to serve. I went back to my Wall Street job to report, “Hey, I joined the Navy!”

I reported to Hunter College in the Bronx and thus began my two years of service in the U.S. Navy. My first station was two months of sweltering heat in Iowa. I made a request for something more exciting, like Florida or California. I was ready to see the rest of the United States. When we looked at our assignments, I realized I was being sent back to New York, to (of all places) Sampson, a town nestled in the Finger Lakes district; a place Bob Hope, on a USO visit, called “The Hangnail of the Finger Lakes.”

All in all, I felt my service was little in comparison to what many other gave, some with their lives; but in the service, I learned discipline, learned how to work with others, made so many friends, and best of all found my loving husband. It's an experience that changed my life for the better.

Bridget Bracken Macaluso of Cooperstown, Y/O Third Class WAVES, U.S. Navy


I graduated from Oneonta High School in 1942. The first thing I wanted to do was go to work, get a job and make some money. Most of the guys I knew went to work on the Delaware & Hudson Railroad because their fathers, like mine, worked there. I wanted to do something different, so I went to work at Bendix in Sidney. The war was on and some of the guys joined the Army. I was 18 years old and wasn't ready to join the service just yet. I wanted to make some money first. The draft age at that time was 21 to 45. Later on they changed it to 18, that's when I was drafted. 

We took our physical in Utica and most of the guys went into the Army. While I was there, some Navy guy came up to me and asked me if I would like to go into the Navy. I said that everybody there was going into the Army and I guess that's what I'm going to do, too. He then said, “Wouldn't you rather go into the Navy?” I said, “Well, hey, that sounds pretty good.” So I became a sailor. 

After boot camp and radio school, I found myself in San Francisco Bay on the biggest ship I ever saw. It was a aircraft carrier. After serving almost two years in the Pacific on three different ships. I realized that although I was drafted, my time in the service was not only important to my country but also important to me. Upon return home, I went to work for the Delaware & Hudson and retired after 45 years of service.

Tony Mongillo of Oneonta, Radioman Third Class, U.S. Navy, 1943-1946


On Dec. 7, 1941, I was working at the Oneonta Theater as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I was 15 years old. Two years later, at 17, I enlisted in the Army Air Force. Why? To do my duty for my country and a strong desire to fly.

What I took from this service was, one, a sense of accomplishment, and two, personal growth and maturity.

William K. Davis of Otego, Tech Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Force.


I would identify my reason for enlisting during the Korean Conflict as selfishness. I grew up and lived on a farmland in a house with no electricity, running water, indoor plumbing or central heat. In school, I loved learning and graduated as salutatorian of my class. Because my family, although not farmers, lived on farmland, I was labeled “a farm boy” and the classes I was allowed to take were restricted. I took no languages and was in a vocational track.

I wanted to go to college to be a veterinarian, and there being no financial way to do so, I enlisted in the armed services to get the G.I. Bill, which would assist me in funding college. Upon discharge from the service, I went to Cornell University to enroll in the veterinary program. The admissions personnel were pleased with my high school and military service and my maturity. They asked me how I would pay. I responded, “I get the G.I. Bill, which gives me $110 per month for education.” They looked at me and said, “That is not enough for you to attend Cornell.” I responded “I will work, I have always worked.” This was not sufficient to go to Cornell. I went to Oneonta State Teachers College to enroll, and they told me I couldn't because I had not taken a language in high school. I was disappointed, to say the least and frustrated. After thinking, I went to speak to my high school science teacher, James Sears. He told me to come back the next day to see him. When I did, he said, “go to the college, take the entrance test — you're in.”   

Four and a half years later, I graduated with honors as a high school science teacher and had met my future wife and lived happily ever after.

Sylvester C. Lloyd of Otego, Sergeant, Army Security Agency, 1954 to 1957, served more than two years in Eritrea and Ethiopia in East Africa


In 1949, in my senior year of high school, the talk was about Korea and about Universal Military Training. 

I figured if the draft was going to call me up, I'd enlist in a branch of service of my choice, I chose the Coast Guard. I served for three years and most of that time I was on a weather cutter sailing the North Atlantic on iceberg patrol and the South Atlantic on hurricane patrol. The duty was interesting and very vital to our country. Shipping depended greatly on our reports. We had civilian weather personnel on board who charted weather conditions.

While serving in the Coast Guard, I learned a trade as a stationary fireman. I earned a living after service as a stationary fireman tending boilers for a large cosmetic firm, Helena Rubenstein, in Roslyn, Long Island.

The service taught me to respect and appreciate our great country. They were three wonderful years and I look back fondly at the memories of service life.

David R. Carman of Schenevus


As a young boy growing up in the 1930s, I used to go down in the basement of our home and look at my father's Army uniform. It hung in a corner complete with gas mask and steel helmet.

I would later learn that he was a hero, being one of the men who rescued the "Lost Battalion"  in the Argonne Forest in France, during World War I. I would also learn that he got gassed and was "shell shocked," which is now known as "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." He could never talk about what he endured in the war. Military personnel came to our home wanting him to help in writing of the story of "Rescuing the Lost Battalion." He couldn't talk about it no matter how many times they tried.

During World War II, I asked my father if he would sign for me to enlist as soon as I turned 16. He did not encourage this!! As I turned 16 in 1946, the war had ended. I would have to wait for the Korean War.

I joined the Army, and after basic training I was selected to take combat leadership training, which is what I wanted because it was a "one way" ticket to Korea. I wanted to experience war as my father did, so maybe we could talk as two war veterans. After I got home he still couldn't talk but very little to me.

He was my inspiration to fight the war to help stop the spread of communism.

I'm proud of what I did and now have many Korean-American friends who are very kind, generous and thankful to all the Korean war veterans.

John F. 'Jack' Thomas of Masonville, staff sergeant, 7th infantry division, U.S. Army, Korea, 1951-52


I enlisted in the Army Air Corps on Nov. 19, 1942. I was a student in Clarkson College, Potsdam, at that time. The Air Corps allowed me to graduate and called me to active duty in the summer of 1942 and sent to an air field in North Carolina for Basic Training.

In December 1943, we were sent to Yale University to become efficient in maintenance of aircraft.

In May 1944, after learning to utilize all kinds of “weapons,” I was sent to Tinker Field in Oklahoma to assist in properly loading of C-47 cargo planes, of all kids of priority parts for aircraft all over the world.

I was discharged in March 1946 but signed up for three years in the Air Force reserves until March 1949.

Former Pfc. Elliot Helfand of Richfield Springs

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