Commissioning USS Little Rock (LCS 9) Set for Saturday, December 16, 2017

The future USS Little Rock LCS 9, one of the newest US Navy littoral combat ships (LCS), will make her way to Buffalo for an official Commissioning Ceremony on Saturday, December 16, 2017. A ship commissioning is an event that marks the time when a new ship officially enters the US Navy fleet. LCS 9 and her crew are expected to arrive in Buffalo on Friday, December 8, 2017 for a week-long commissioning celebration. A schedule of events for Commissioning Week (December 8 – December 17) is being finalized and will be released next week.

read the full press release on the USS Little Rock Commissioning Committee website. 

National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Artists embark to Buffalo

Buffalo, New YorkVeterans from around the nation will be coming to Buffalo, October 23–30 for the 2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). This national event is the celebration and grand finale stage and art show of talent competitions representing 51 categories of art, creative writing, dance, drama and music, for Veterans across the nation, treated in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.

Over 120 Veterans will exhibit their artwork or perform musical, dance, dramatic or original writing selections in a gala variety show to be held Sunday, October 29 at UB Center for the Arts. The art exhibit and creative writers’ meet and greet takes place from noon–1:45 pm in the Atrium, and the stage show begins at 2 pm on the Mainstage Theatre. A professional orchestra will accompany the performance. VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs enhancing rehabilitation for both inpatients and outpatients. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through creative arts therapy, and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our Nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.

Two local winners will participate; James Becker’s “Intraflection” stood out in the Military Combat Experience category and David Krieger’s, “They Call Me Jake” in the essay (other) category.

“This showcase of talented Veterans highlights the therapeutic benefits of the arts,” shared Pamela Kaznowski, VA Western New York Healthcare System Recreation Therapy Supervisor and Host site coordinator. “This is an exciting event for Veterans, VA staff, volunteers and the community. Everyone is welcome to attend the October 29th event! ”

Tickets are available by calling 716-862-6814 for this free event open to the public, presented by Department of Veterans Affairs and American Legion Auxiliary.

Buffalo native aboard doomed World War II ship died 75 years ago with the five Sullivan brothers

Source: The Buffalo News
By: Lou Michel
Date: September 22, 2017

Earlier this week Jerry Reilly’s 91-year-old cousin sat on the porch of her Old First Ward home the two had shared as children.

She reminisced about the World War II sailor who died 75 years ago with the five Sullivan brothers and nearly 700 other shipmates aboard the USS Juneau.

Betty Barrett did not hold back in sharing Reilly’s tough upbringing. She knew it would be tempered by the praise her cousin received at Friday’s memorial service on the cobblestone sidewalk next to the USS The Sullivans at Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.

The story of the Sullivan brothers is well known. From Iowa, they had all enlisted following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite resistance from the Navy, they were granted their wish to “stick together” and were all assigned to the doomed Juneau.

Click for the full article.

Buffalo Naval Park hosts ceremony to unveil and dedicate new Gold Star Memorial marker

Ceremony and memorial honor families who have lost loved ones during military service

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sept. 24, 2017 — Today the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park officially unveiled a new plaque that will serve as a memorial to families who have lost a family member during military service. Known as “Gold Star” families, they were honored on National Gold Star Mother’s Day, the last Sunday of September annually.

Buffalo Naval and Military Park, Gold Star Mothers, BNMP,

Several Western New York Gold Star Mothers gather at the new Gold Star Memorial marker unveiled today at the Buffalo Naval Park. Each has lost a child during military service to our country. This new memorial serves to remind our community of the sacrifice which they and their families have endured.

The new Gold Star plaque is adjacent to the previously existing Blue Star plaque, which recognizes the sacrifice all families with loved ones serving in the military endure. The new marker was funded by the Bowmansville Garden Club, which has a special focus on Gold Star families in many of the gardens they design, including the Russell J. Salvatore Patriots and Heroes Park and the Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration site.

The ceremony was held on the Veterans Park Promenade, which is open year around to the public at no cost. State Senator Chris Jacobs and State Assemblyman Mickey Kearns were on hand to express their gratitude and honor the sacrifices made by the Gold and Blue Star families present. They were joined by Naval Park board and staff members, the Erie County Sheriff’s Pipes & Drums Patriot Guard Riders, and numerous veterans.

The Blue Star military service flag was first created during World War I by a father to recognize his two sons battling in the front line of duty. It features a red border and white interior with a blue star in the center. In more recent years, the Gold Star flag was developed, following the same design. It is hung during wartime to recognize the families of those who have lost loved ones through their military service.

The ceremony began with remarks from the Naval Park’s Executive Director, Captain Brain Roche, who expressed his deepest condolences for the relatives of our fallen heroes.

“The families who have joined us here today, as well as many more across Western New York and beyond, have suffered the ultimate grief, while their sons, daughters or family members gave us the ultimate sacrifice,” Capt. Roche said. “This marker now displayed here on the Veterans Promenade will remind passersby — including the visitors we receive annually from all 50 states, and over 100 countries — of these sacrifices. We hope it will cause them to pause, reflect and express some form of gratitude to you and your loved ones for all you have given us, and all you have endured.”

An invocation was led by Gold Star Mother Holly Baker of Springville, N.Y., the mother of U.S. Army Specialist Brain Baker (10th Mountain Division), who was killed in action in 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Ms. Baker is a former President of the American Gold Star Mothers South Buffalo Chapter No. 26.

Sandra Krege, Gold Star Mothers, South Buffalo, BNMP, Iraqi Freedom, Travis Krege

Sandra Krege, president of the American Gold Star Mothers South Buffalo Chapter No. 26, addressed those in attendance about the significance of the new addition of the Gold Star Memorial marker. Ms. Krege’s son, U.S. Army PFC Travis Krege, was killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006.

“It is certainly fitting that today, on Gold Star Mother’s Day, we unveil this Gold Star marker in recognition of your devoted presence in this community,” Naval Park Chairman Don Alessi added, addressing those mothers in attendance. “Yet, it is even more fitting that this ceremony follows the 75th anniversary of the death [during the sinking of the U.S.S. Juneau] of the five Sullivan brothers, for which our destroyer is named. While the Sullivans reunion committee paid tribute to the five brothers for their ultimate sacrifice, they did not forget Aletta Sullivan, perhaps the most well-known Gold Star Mother, for her enduring loss.”

Mr. Alessi also expressed his gratitude to the Bowmansville Garden Club for its generosity before introducing Sandra Krege, the current president of the American Gold Star Mothers South Buffalo Chapter No. 26. She lost her son, U.S. Army PFC Travis Krege, who was also killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006.

“This is not a club that anybody chooses to belong too,” Ms. Krege explained. “I hope, when people read this new marker, they understand what these families have gone through, and what they have sacrificed for us all. We lost our only son, our first born. His sibling lost her big brother. At every holiday, there is a hole at our table. There’s a birthday that we never get to celebrate. But a history unlearned is doomed to repeat itself, and there are many lessons to be learned here in this park. I really appreciate the significance of today. It’s very special and important to me.”

The ceremony concluded with the unveiling the new marker, the playing of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes, and several photos with the Gold Star Mothers, all dressed in white and gold, around the new memorial.

 

Buffalo Naval Park Hosts Veterans Tribute Awards Ceremony

Ceremony honors the late Col. Cunningham, Park Executive Director

BUFFALO, N.Y. Aug. 26, 2017 Colonel Patrick J. Cunningham spent 30 years in active military service with the U.S. Army. He went on to serve as Executive Director of the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park from 1993 until his death this past March. Today, he was honored at the Louis R. Palma Veterans Tribute Awards Ceremony, as the Park unveiled a new display that included the late colonel’s U.S. Army mess dress dinner jacket with medals, an array of photos and a special portrait.

Col. Cunningham grew up in Kenmore, N.Y., and returned to Buffalo in 1989 after retiring from the U.S. Army, with which he held a variety of high-profile command and staff positions, including 13 years at the Pentagon. As executive director of the Naval Park, he spent the final 24 years of life dedicated to celebrating Western New York’s veterans, creating the nation’s largest inland naval park, and launching Buffalo’s initial Canalside waterfront attraction.

“Colonel Patrick J. Cunningham was a pillar of leadership, professionalism and team building on the Buffalo waterfront for over two decades,” said Captain Brian Roche, who was named the park’s Executive Director following the colonel’s passing. “The Naval Park’s Board of Directors and staff have dedicated this year to remembering Col. Cunningham, to formally recognize him for all that he did for the park and the Western New York Community.”

He always viewed the park as “a symbol of the region’s patriotism, dedication and sacrifice,” he once said. His dedication to it was so great that he personally funded the park, including its payroll, during its leanest times, without ever saying a word or expecting to be repaid.

“No one was more dedicated to preserving, maintaining, and promoting the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park than Col. Patrick Cunningham,” added Naval Park Board Chairman Don Alessi. “Without him the Park would not have the physical or historic presence that it enjoys today. He was truly the heart and soul of the operation and we were all honored to have served with him.”

The ceremony was attend by many members of the Colonel’s family, including his brother, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of the Diocese of Syracuse, who delivered the invocation, and his daughter, Colleen Burns, who delivered the eulogy. It also featured Master of Ceremony Domenic Cortese, a radio host with WBEN-AM, presentation of colors by park docents, and music from The Friends of Harmony.

The exhibit that was unveiled during today’s ceremony honoring Col. Cunningham will be in the Hangar Building for the remainder of the season, and then moved up to the USS Little Rock’s Chief of Staff office for permanent display.

ABOUT THE LOUIS R. PALMER TRIBUTE AWARD

A veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, Louis R. Palma, began active duty at the age of 15 as a Navy Air Crewman in the South Pacific during WWII. He served in the Korean War from 1950 to 1952, and joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves in 1953, where he served on special assignments as a flight engineer in Vietnam. In between those calls to duty, Mr. Palma obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Canisius College in 1955. Although he eventually retired from the reserves in 1988, Louis Palma returned to civilian life demonstrating many more years of exemplary service to the Western New York veteran community.

Most notably, it was primarily due to his leadership and commitment to the veterans and their families that the organizational structure and management of the veterans’ service division of Erie County was re-established, and state accreditation for the region was reclaimed. In 2000, at the age of 72, Mr. Palma worked to assist countless veterans and their families by accepting an appointment as Erie County director of veteran’s services, a post he held until 2009. He passed away just three years ago, in August 2014, at the age of 86. If it were not for the efforts of Palma, the veterans’ division would have remained ineligible for state certification.

In acknowledgement of his committed service, Palma received numerous medals such as the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal – with six battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation. As such, it is with respect to the aforementioned-service and work history of Mr. Louis R. Palma that the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park honored Mr. Palma with this annual awards tribute distinction.

Jacobs Delivers Funding for Buffalo Naval Park and Other Waterfront Projects

$1.5 Million in State Funds to Support Major Attractions

AUG. 4, 2017 — BUFFALO, N.Y. — Standing near the construction site of the new Explore & More Children’s Museum on Buffalo’s waterfront, New York State Senator Chris Jacobs (60th SD) announced three state grants that he secured to support the museum, the Buffalo Heritage Carousel project and a major expansion at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.

“The number of visitors at Canalside continues to grow, as does the impact the revitalized waterfront is having on our community,” said Jacobs. “Major investments in these projects will help get them completed as soon as possible, ensuring that we continue to build on the momentum already underway.”

Each project will be the recipient of a $500,000 state grant for a combined investment of $1.5 million in new development and construction.

“Investing in these three waterfront projects in downtown Buffalo and Canalside will continue to shine a spotlight on our City’s natural beauty and ensure city residents can further enjoy new and exciting exhibits that create jobs, while attracting even more tourists to one of our City’s most popular destinations,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “I thank Senator Jacobs for helping us secure funding for these major attractions.”

“The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park’s Board of Directors and Staff greatly appreciate Senator Jacobs’ most gracious support of a $500,000 grant for the Park,” said Captain Brian Roche, USCG (ret) and Executive Director. “The grant will be used to support the construction of a Hall of Honor. Once completed, the updated building will highlight the heroic actions by Western New York veterans.”

Douglas Love, CEO of Explore & More said, “We are very grateful for the Senator’s continued support and vision for Canalside as a family friendly destination. We are about engaging children with exciting, interactive exhibits and programs that will inspire them to discover their world. Also, studies have shown, the Museum’s economic impact will bring approximately $208 million to the area in the next 10 years.”

“On behalf of the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, we are extremely appreciative for this generous support from Senator Jacobs for our solar powered, historic 1924 Spillman Engineering carousel,” said President Laurie Hauer-LaDuca. “These funds will assist in the restoration of the carousel and the design and construction of its building, bringing new life to this rare gem that will be enjoyed by generations to come.”

All three projects are anticipated to be completed in late 2018. Jacobs said he believes that the economic impact to the region will be greatly enhanced by these permanent structures.

“The success of these projects will do so much more besides enriching the overall Canalside and waterfront experience for everyone who visits,” said Senator Jacobs. “They will create jobs, attract more visitors and spending from outside the state and region, and further advance our goal of Buffalo’s waterfront becoming a year-round destination,” he concluded.

Buffalo Naval Park Honors 40th Anniversary of the Arrival of its Ships

Family members of five volunteers who brought the ships to Buffalo will be honored

BUFFALO, N.Y. – July 15, 2017 – The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park celebrated the arrival of the USS Little Rock CG-4 and USS The Sullivans DD-537 to Buffalo, N.Y., in July 1977 today by honoring five of the volunteers who served as crew members that delivered the ships to Buffalo and assisted in establishing the park.

The five men who were honored include:

Michael Bertini, served as the volunteer Chef for both the USS The Sullivans and USS Little Rock crew. Bertini served in the Army during World War ll in the Aleutians and after the Army was a matre’d at the High Gate Club in Buffalo. Later in life, he opened his own Barber Shop and worked there for more than 20 years.

Joseph Heilig, served as a volunteer on the USS Little Rock when he was encouraged by his brother, Thomas Heilig, the Captain (see bio below) of the ship to help. Heilig was a Seaman First Class (Sonar Equipment Operator) in the U.S. Navy and at the end of World War II was honorably discharged. When he returned home, he went back to work at Bethlehem Steel Co. and during that time he took the exam to become a New York State Trooper, where he served a little over four years.  Heilig, then went on to work as a Parole Officer and had various other jobs in law enforcement.  When he finished his time in law enforcement, he became a Truck Driver and finally a Bus Driver for the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS).

Thomas “Tom” Heilig, QMC, USN was a Quartermaster Chief Petty Officer and Captain of the USS Little Rock volunteer crew. Enlisted in the service from 1945 – 1954, he then joined the Active Reserves till 1977. Heilig worked for the Buffalo Police Department, Transportation Department (traffic signals and signs) for 25 years when he retired and traveled as a repairman for autoclaves.

George E. Rease, honored for helping bring both the USS The Sullivans and the USS Little Rock to the area, enlisted in the US Navy at age 17 and served aboard the USS Oklahoma City CL-91 with the Pacific fleet as a gunner. Rease was honorably discharged from the Navy at the rate of Seaman First Class a little over a year later. He was employed by the City of Buffalo Streets Department as an equipment operator.

Leonard “Lenny” Sniadecki, a volunteer on the USS Little Rock was a Torpedoman-Second Class and served aboard the USS Trepang, SS 412 when he enlisted at age 18 and served until the World War II ends. He was a bus driver for the N.F.T.A. until he joined the Buffalo Police Department and served for 39 years.

In the mid-1970s, Former Buffalo City Court Judge and Air Force Veteran, Anthony LoRusso, went to North Carolina to see a friend who was in the Navy. During LoRusso’s stay, he visited a Naval Museum that included a museum ship. He envisioned Buffalo as a perfect place to have a similar military museum.

After returning home, LoRusso spoke with Buffalo City officials and in June of 1977 tugboats from New York City traveled to Philadelphia, PA along with 19 volunteers, most City of Buffalo employees who gave up their vacation, to navigate these massive ships. The transit included following the New England shoreline to the entrance of the St. Lawrence Seaway, across Lake Ontario and through the Welland Canal to Lake Erie. The ships moored along the Buffalo River waterfront and became The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.

As stated above, nearly all the volunteers who brought the ships from Philadelphia to Buffalo were city workers. A call was put out to City of Buffalo employees who were veterans of either World War II or the Korean War and interested in helping make history and move these historic ships to the area.

2017 Wall of Honor Ceremony Held July 4, 2017

On July 4th, The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park honored our latest inductees into our Wall of Honor. These veterans names will be inscribed on the Wall.

You can view some photos from the event or watch the video of the entire ceremony (see below).

  • Clarence native and Miss. New York 2017, Gabrielle Walter singing the National Anthem prior to the Independence Day Wall of Honor ceremony.

  • Timothy P. Sullivan along with his family accepting his place on the Wall of Honor at the Independence Day ceremony.

  • Board Chairman, Don Alessi, speaking about William C. Dibble’s decorated war history including surviving 23 month in Germany as a prisoner of war (POW).

  • William C. Dibble accepting his place on the Wall of Honor at the Independence Day ceremony.

  • Board Chairman, Don Alessi presenting the son of Myron “Mike” H. Hagen his father’s Wall of Honor certificate.

  • Board Chairman, Don Alessi, presenting the nephew of Garold R. Seifert his uncle’s Wall of Honor certificate.

  • Captain Brian Roche, Executive Director of the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, thanking Richard L. Petri for his service as well as his donation of 40 hand crafted replica ships to the park’s museum and honoring his donation by placing him name on the Wall of Honor.

  • Captain Brian Roche, Executive Director of the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, thanking Richard L. Petri for his service as well as his donation of 40 hand crafted replica ships to the park’s museum and honoring his donation by placing him name on the Wall of Honor.

  • Guest speaker, Ulyssee O. Wingo Sr., Masten District Councilman.

  • Clarence native and Miss. New York 2017, Gabrielle Walter posing with the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park docents.

  • Clarence native and Miss. New York 2017, Gabrielle Walter aboard the U.S.S Little Rock.

  • Clarence native and Miss. New York 2017, Gabrielle Walter aboard the U.S.S Little Rock.

 

The Buffalo Naval Park’s new Little Rock Concerts begin TONIGHT

Free series to occur every Tuesday through Labor Day on the U.S.S. Little Rock fantail

BUFFALO, N.Y. – June 20, 2017 – Starting tonight, The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park will feature free live music every Tuesday night through September 5 (excluding July 4) from 6 to 8 p.m. on the fantail of the U.S.S. Little Rock. The public is welcomed to join the festivities each week, including music from local artists or bands and an incomparable view of Buffalo’s beautiful waterfront. Food and beverage will be available for purchase. The line-up for the inaugural series is as followed:

  • June 20: Jack Civiletto
  • June 27: Robert Freight Train Parker
  • July 11: Dark Horse Run
  • July 18: Old School B Boys
  • July 25: Joyce Wilson Nixon and Tom Lorentz
  • August 1: Wendell Rivera and Wine Light
  • August 8: Route Two 40 Ride
  • August 15: Marsha McWilson
  • August 29: The Buffalo Dolls and Richie & Debbie Derwald
  • September 5: E life 7

Chairs will be available for guests. For safety purposes, personal chairs will not be permitted to be carried onboard. The event is rain or shine.

Buffalo Naval Park unveils sculpture, plaque to commemorate Buffalo native McClusky’s impact on WWII

Naval squadron leader credited for turning the tide at the Battle of Midway — and WWII — 75 years ago

BUFFALO, N.Y. — June 4, 2017 — The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park hosted a ceremony today to honor the legacy and memory of C. Wade McClusky, a South Buffalo native whose heroic actions have been widely attributed for leading to a decisive World War II victory during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942 — which many believe was the turning point in the war.

To mark the 75th anniversary of this event, the Buffalo Naval Park is installing a new sculpture and tribute plaque of McClusky, who rose to the rank of Rear Admiral (RADM) before retiring in 1956. He passed away 20 years later, in 1976, at the age of 74. A clay model of that sculpture, created by Youngstown, N.Y.-based artist Susan Geissler, was unveiled at the conclusion of the ceremony, which was highlighted with numerous guest speakers, including Lieutenant Commander George Walsh, (ret.), a living WWII Naval dive-bomber pilot and author of, “Battle of Midway: Searching for the Truth,” who traveled from Darien, Conn. — at age 96 — to be part of the celebration and to help put McClusky’s achievements in their proper context.

A graduate of South Park High School, then-Lieutenant Commander McClusky led his group’s dive-bombers at the Battle of Midway against superior Japanese naval forces. Running low on fuel, he risked going beyond the point of no return to locate the Japanese fleet. He found the enemy and directed dive-bomber attacks which destroyed two Japanese fleet carriers in minutes.

Upon returning to his fleet, he was attacked by Japanese fighter planes, which struck his plane with 55 bullets, which led to a serious wound to his left shoulder – a detail which is clearly represented in Ms. Geissler’s sculpture within McClusky’s flight jacket.

 

U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, 26th District, was also on hand to share his thoughts on McClusky’s heroism. He presented an official U.S. flag that had flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to Philip McClusky, RADM McClusky’s son, who made his very first visit to his father’s hometown. In turn, he surprised those in attendance by donating four of his father’s most prestigious war medals — the Navy Cross, Navy Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart — to the Naval Park to be added to its permanent collection.

Congressman Higgins, together with New York State Senator Chris Jacobs, 60th District, and Naval & Military Park volunteer Lee Simonson, both of whom also offered comments during the ceremony, collaborated with Buffalo Naval Park officials to bring this story and today’s event to fruition. Congressman Higgins’ office has worked to have more than 20 additional medals posthumously bestowed upon McClusky — the most his office has ever obtained for a single individual, he said.