God and Country
“Salute and Honor St. John’s Military Veterans”
6 Nov 2016
St. John Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Johnson City, New York
On 6 Nov 2016 in upstate New York, there was an early frost and it was still pitch dark at 5:45 AM, when Robert Onysko (his son Michael served 2 tours of duty in Iraq as a US Marine) placed several roasters full of holubtsi into the ovens. A short time later, David Mihalko (his father John served in the US Army during WW 2 North Africa, Italy, France, Germany) began seasoning the several huge pieces of roast beef for the ovens. What was going on at St. John’s in Johnson City, NY on Sunday 6 Nov 2016?
Our parishioners were in the final preparations for “Salute and Honor St. John’s Military Veterans”, a commemoration to all our veterans who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. This was for all St. John’s Military Veterans, those who have passed away plus those who are living, who had served during World War I, World War II, Korean War, Cold War Era, Vietnam War and recent and current Gulf Wars.
A few hours later in the early sunshine illuminating the colorful Fall foliage, at 8 AM our beloved Hierarchs, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and His Eminence Archbishop (Elect) Daniel drove into the rectory driveway with four of our Seminarians. We were on schedule for our long planned event, “Salute and Honor St. John’s Military Veterans”. As Brian Baxendale, our Parish Council President, and I waved to our arriving Church Hierarchs, I said, “They’re here, so let’s make this happen!”
On 6 Nov 2016, St. John’s parishioners saluted and honored our 146 Veterans with a tribute for their sacrifice and service to our nation, the United States of America.
All were called, all served their nation, and through the Grace of God, all returned safely.
- A condensed overview of the activities follows:
- Welcoming of Veterans, their families plus many guests to St. John’s Church started at 8:45 AM.
- Greetings of our Hierarchs by our Junior UOL, Rev. Father Ivan Synevskyy, Protopresbyter Myron Oryhon and Parish Council President Brian Baxendale.
- Celebration of a very uplifting Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for our parishioners and many guests.
- A spectacular blue sky with brilliant midday sunshine awaited the Hierarchs and Clergy as they led the procession of parishioners/guests from the Church to the front of our Memorial Center.
- Parade the Colors. A military honor guard ceremony for all departed St. John’s Veterans which included a wreath laying ceremony by our Hierarchs, Clergy and B. Baxendale. This emotional and moving ceremony was conducted by our invited Broome County Veterans Memorial Association 10 member group led by:
W. Loveless, CHIEF, US Navy (Ret.) President
H. Gutzman, LT CMDR, US Navy (Ret.) Vice President
- The ceremony ended with “Taps” played by 91 year old Al Rood, US Marine Corps, (Ret.) who was personally present in the U.S. victorious assult on Iwo Jima in WW 2 plus the raising of the “Stars & Stripes” on Mount Suribachi.
- Dignified military recognition was also provided by the attendance of SSGT, G.T. Jones, US Marine Corps and BM 2, S.M. Clark, US Navy who lead and manage their respective Recruitment Stations locally.
- After the Military ceremony, everyone entered our Memorial Center for a fellowship/social hour followed by a delicious meal of roast beef with St. John’s well known and famous holubtsi.
- NY State Senator Fred Akshar enthusiastically attended our activities and joined Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel in delivering stirring tributes for our Veterans to the estimated 200 attendees of the event.
- In addition to our visiting Hierarchs, Clergy attending were Protopresbyter Myron Oryhon, Rev. Father Mykola Andrushkiv from Syracuse, NY, Deacon Adrian Mazur from NY City and our St. Johns Deacon Phillip Harendza.
- Two local television stations were present to televize the Liturgy, Military Ceremony and festivities - speeches during the banquet. Fittingly, the local major newspaper also interviewed our Veterans - John Tylko, WW II; Charles Ellsworth Sr., WW II; Paul Chebiniak, Korean War and myself - in a feature article the following day with photographs.
- Two St. John’s Veterans were recognized for their service and sacrifice as Prisoners of War (POW) during WW 2. St. John’s Parish welcomed the children of our POWs as Honored Guests and to receive Citations in memory of their fathers from Father Ivan Synevskyy.
JoAnn (Byce) Rosenkrans Daughers of Joseph Byce, SSGT, US Army Air Corps, WW 2
RoxAnn (Byce) Gusar POW in Germany for 1 year
- Michael Maslak, Jr. Son of Michael Maslak, TSGT, US Army, WW 2 – POW in Phillippines for 3 years
Myron Shlatz, nephew to TSGT Michael Maslak, accepted the Citation on behalf of Michael Maslak, Jr. who could not attend.
- A tribute to our Veterans and guests was provided by Father Ivan Synevskyy. In keeping with our theme of the event, “God and Country”, Father Ivan read aloud the Dedication, portions of which follow:
“We hope and pray that the sacrifice made by you will not have been in vain, but that your efforts in defending a noble and humanitarian cause will prove to the world that the American way of life - is God’s way.
May our St. John’s Memorial Center always be a living memorial to the American and Christian ideals you defended. This Center shall not be a Memorial to war, but instead a Memorial to the God-given rights and freedom which we have in the USA and which all of you defended so valiantly.”
This memorable event for St. Johns was successful primarily because of the 40-50 parishioners who together did the work to make this happen.
Yours in Christ,
Michael J. Dobransky
Capt., US Air Force (Ret.)