BATAVIA — Veterans living in the state Veterans Home on Richmond Avenue sat in the walkway leading up to the home, protected from the rain, and watched and listened as speakers shared their appreciation for their service. A little while later, the traditional ceremony at the Jerome Center drew a number of observers as well. Indoors, at Genesee Community College’s Batavia campus, the college held its own ceremony.
A couple of towns away, in Le Roy, Botts Fiorito Post 576 of the American Legion gathered during Friday’s Veterans Day at Trigon Park to honor those who served.
Henry Kisiel, who will turn 98 soon, was one of those sitting outside the state Veterans Home. Kisiel served in the Navy during World War II on the aircraft carrier USS Cape Esperance. His daughter, Diana Kastenbaum, said her father and other crew members survived a typhoon in the Pacific one day.
“Three destroyers capsized and all the men were lost, but the aircraft carrier survived,” she said. Kastenbaum said planes went off the sides of the Esperance into the ocean.
Kisiel was at Friday’s ceremony in front of the New York State Veterans Home.
“He’s one of the last World War II veterans,” Kastenbaum said before the ceremony began.
The Navy veteran said it was interesting serving on the aircraft carrier the day of the storm.
“The storm sunk three destroyers,” Kisiel said afterward. “You couldn’t stand up on the flight deck. You had to fall on the floor and hang onto where we tied the airplanes on, because you’d slide right off the ship. It was that bad.”
Kisiel said when the storm started, he was playing cards with some of his fellow servicemen.
“When she tipped like that, the water would be up into the flight deck,” he said, motioning with his hand. “It was the most exciting time that I ever had encountered.”
During the ceremony, Veterans Home Administrator Nicole Gallagher said, “We at the state Veterans Home are grateful for the privilege of caring for those who have served our country in order to preserve the freedoms that we hold so dear,” .
Gallagher read from a proclamation by Gov. Kathy Hochul. In part, Hochul said Veterans Day calls each of us to remember veterans who are gone and recognize that our lives would be far different today without their selfless service and sacrifices.
“New Yorkers join to extend our appreciation to veterans who live in the United States of America today, all of them deserving highest admiration and gratitude from every American who enjoys the liberty and the independence safeguarded by heroic individuals,” Gallagher read.
Over at the Jerome Center, after the ceremony concluded, county Veterans Service Agency Director William Joyce said he was pleased with the way things went.
“Especially with us being veterans … It doesn’t matter what the weather was. We still had to do our duty and that’s just what we did today,” Joyce said.
In addition to the small crowd standing around under the cover of umbrellas, there were people sitting in their cars to be there for the ceremony, he noted.
“They wanted to be here — not only in the parking lot here, but over, across, they were sitting in the parking lot watching,” Joyce said, pointing to the lot across Bank Street from the Jerome Center. They were able to hear what was said as well.
“I know my voice carries, so I know they heard my commands,” he said with a laugh.
Tom Cecere, who had played taps at the ceremony sites that morning, and his wife, Felicia, were looking at the names on the ground in front of the Genesee County War Memorial and on the memorial itself.
“I thought the ceremonies were beautiful. With the weather, it wasn’t a great big turnout, but they did have people here,” she said. “It’s nice to see that people came out to give their support.” Tom Cecere said the Jerome Center was his fifth ceremony of the day.
“At the Genesee County Park and at both the hospital (VA Medical Center) and the nursing home (state Veterans Home) we had a wonderful turnout like we always do,” he said. “All the veterans came out. They really appreciate what we do for them. It’s so gratifying. It really touches our hearts every time I see that. They just appreciate everything that we did for them today.”
Among the names, Felicia Cecere said she was looking for her father, Edward Zaremski, who served with the Army during World War II. Tom Cecere said he was looking for his dad, Louis Cecere, who served with the Army Air Corps during the dame war.
“My cousin, John Gioia, and my neighbor, Bradley Nadeau — they were both killed in Vietnam,” Tom Cecere said.
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