Broad Stripes and Bright Stars

Nov. 20-26, 2003
Broad Stripes and Bright Stars
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Area veterans were honored at Mass at the Basilica

A Veteran’s Day Memorial Mass, the first of its kind, took place at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Syracuse on Nov. 9. The uniqueness of this Mass was that it honored living veterans throughout the Syracuse Diocese and the world, in addition to those who have died. Father Peter Gleba, rector of the basilica, and Father Dennis Hayes, Onondaga County sheriff’s deputy and chaplain to the Syracuse Police Department, concelebrated the Mass along with deacons, James Moore, Joseph Daniszewski and Frank Timson.

The “Star Spangled Banner” was sung by the choir and congregation before the Knights of Columbus Assembly 6282 escorted honored service veterans from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy to the front of the church. Before the Mass began, Father Gleba asked representatives of each branch of the military to stand and be recognized so that those in attendance could show their appreciation for their service to the United States. During the homily, Father Hayes asked the youth in attendance to study the faces of the veterans. “I would suggest to you that these are the men and women you should look to. They allowed you and me the freedoms we enjoy,” he said. “Do not lose the idea that we must pray for them. They have suffered trauma and losses so that we may be free.” Father Hayes made a correlation between Jesus’ giving His life for others and the service men and women giving their lives so that all may remain free. “We are able to gather together in freedom and safety because of these men and women and thousands of others who have committed themselves to keep our nation free,” said Father Hayes. “I would suggest on this Veteran’s Day, we think of it as more than a day off. We should focus on the sacrifices made by veterans, both physical and emotional, pray for those that fought for our safety and celebrate in prayerful recognition of what they have given us. We are grateful for your contributions,” he said.

The Mass was attended by more than 700 people, including representatives from the American Gold Star Mother, Inc. — a group of women who have lost their sons in a war. Raymond Stogsdill served in the Air Force during the Korean War and was on the planning committee for the event. “We organized the Mass because the veterans deserve it,” said Stogsdill. “No one has ever done anything like this for them before.” Stogsdill felt that this year, more than ever, veterans were being recognized because of the current war in Iraq. “We had such a good turnout — we hope this will become an annual event,” said Stogsdill.

Frederick Rogus is a Navy veteran from the Korean War and has been Commander of the Polish Legion of American Veterans for the past 14 years. He, too, was pleased with the turnout. “The Mass was beautiful and inspiring,” he said. “It brought tears to many eyes. We needed to honor the living in addition to those who have died.” Walter Piotrowski is a Navy veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. “I went in at 17 and by the time I was 18, I was getting shot at,” he said. “When our country needed us, we went. No questions asked.” Piotrowski put his education at Christian Brothers Academy on hold to join the Navy. When he returned three years later, he returned to CBA for his final year of high school and then went on to college. However, while he was at college, the Korean War started and again he went off to fight for his country.

John Lukowski, a sergeant in the Army in World War II, agreed that it was nice to be acknowledged for his contributions. Before he retired, Lukowski was the director of the West Side Boys Club for 30 years. “World War II veterans were much more active in their posts than veterans today,” said Lukowski. “Other veterans don’t seem to participate in veteran organizations. Years ago, the War Memorial Association had strong participation from both veterans and the women’s auxiliary. About 75 to 100 people used to get together to make wreaths for the war monuments in the area. It was a great affair.” At the close of the Mass, a lone bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.” Tears welled from the eyes of the congregation as a recording of “Taps” was played, followed by the congregation and choir singing “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” “We consider it a privilege to celebrate this Mass for the men and women who have served our country,” said Father Gleba. “It was wonderful to see so many people attend. It was our chance to do something for the veterans who have done so much for us.”

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