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Honoring Western New York’s Veterans — Read Their Stories [PICTURES]

Veterans Day is this weekend (November 11), and WYRK is honoring our listeners that have served our country. You can read their stories below.

If you know a veteran you’d like us to profile, you can send us some information about them.

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William Severance
William Severance

I wanted to honor my brother, Sgt. William Severance, who is currently serving his first deployment in Kuwait. He is in the Army National Guard, stationed at the Connecticut Street Armory. He is set to return home this January and has been gone for almost a year. He has been in the Army for six years and plans on re- enlisting. He is very dedicated to the Army and enjoys spending time with his son Xavier.

– Jennifer Stoddard

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Pete Saya
Pete Saya

From left to right pictured are:

  • My grandpa, Pete Saya, who served in the Army during World War II. He was born in 1923 and died this past February. He told me so many stories from when he was stationed in Germany, but my favorite was always the one about when he tried to steal boots off of a deceased Nazi soldier and the whole leg came off with it.
  • Next is my uncle and my dad, who both served in the Navy.
  • And my brother, Chief Petty Officer Paul Isham, who served nine years in the Navy. He served on the nuclear ship USS Enterprise until it was dry-docked in 2002, when he was then transferred to Saratoga Springs as a nuclear instructor.

I work on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and am so lucky to see heroes every day. The stories I hear are amazing, and I thank all veterans, active duty, reservists and guard members every day for their service.

– Shannon Isham

Ralph Pascell
Ralph Pascell

My grandfather turned 90 this year in August. He was born in 1922 and dedicated his life from an early age to both the Army and the Air Force. He served in World War II and retired from the 914th in the ’80s with many years of service. If he had his choice, he would have stayed forever. He ran the machine shop at the air base for quite some time. Recently, my grandfather has spent many hours reminiscing about his ‘good ol’ days’ with me. He has shown me his medals, his honors and certificates. He even has an award signed by Jimmy Carter. I was completely impressed. I never knew all this about him. He was a sharp shooter, one of the best. He even has his father’s Purple Heart – one of his favorite things, as his father passed away when my grandfather was in his late teens. My grandfather is a remarkable man and very special to me. Although he’s up in age now and has grown weaker, his pride is still strong for his country. There has been a flag out in his yard since I can remember.

– Gabrielle Lockwood

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Justin Buchholtz
Justin Buchholtz

My husband Justin was in the First Marine Division. He served in Iraq in 2003. He was very proud of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a Marine after high school. He loved his country and all that our freedom stood for. He passed away in December 2010. He never got a chance to meet our baby girl Alaina. Our daughters Amelia and Alaina wanted to make sure we showed our support because he was our favorite veteran.
The picture shown is the last family picture we took.

– Christen Buchholtz

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Gabriel Laracuente
Gabriel Laracuente

He is the only son of Terri (my sister) and Rick and has four older sisters. He joined the Army because he loves his country. He is a proud father of a little girl, Tori. He’s been the best nephew. He is serving now in Afghanistan.  He has many friends and family who love his sense of humor and miss him dearly. He is a proud soldier who feels he needs no thanks because he said he joined because he loves his country…family…freedom. Myself and his four sisters, his mom and dad and his little girl all thank him and all the men and women who are serving now.

– Kate Mann

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John Henderson is my brother; he just retired from the Army last March. He went in when he was 17. He has been all over the world whenever and wherever the crap hit the fan — Germany in the ’80s, ‘Lousyana’ as John likes to call it (Louisiana) during Katrina and, more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan. He rocks out loud. John is a true hero and patriot. God bless you, John. I love you.

– Bonnie Wantuck

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Nate Berry
Nate Berry

Nate is my boyfriend of four years. He is currently deployed, and we all miss him dearly. I’m so thankful for him and his bravery to fight for our country. I miss and love him so much. Can’t wait to bring our troops home. Thanks to the past, present and future veterans!

– Julie Earsing

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Cory Will
Cory Will

My brother, Gunny Sergeant Cory Will, is an active duty Marine who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq and will be deployed to the Mediterranean in the spring. He entered the Marine Corps after graduating from Hutch Tech in 1997, and he is returning to active duty three years after his wife survived a ruptured brain aneurysm. If you say anything to him about it, he always says he’s no hero, he’s ‘just doing my job.’

– Tracy Will

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My father, Walter Kupkowski, served two tours in Vietnam. He was in the Navy and Army. His brother, John Kupkowski, also served in Vietnam. John never made it home. He served the ultimate sacrifice. My grandfather was in World War II. I am so proud of all of them. So are my kids, Jonathan Heffle and Amanda Heffle.

– Theresa Kupkowski

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William Wilson
William Wilson

On this special day, we honor all the men and women who gave selflessly of themselves. We send out a “Wilson Strong” thank you to all of Billy’s brothers that served with him, and now we call you our ‘family’. We are proud to American. We forever miss you, Billy.
You will never be forgotten. Love, Pa Dukes, Ma Dukes, JR and Wes.

– Kimberly Wilson

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Sgt Ben LaDuca SPC Anmarie LaDuca Kowalczyk
Sgt. Ben LaDuca + SPC Annmarie LaDuca Kowalczyk

My two oldest children, Sgt. Ben LaDuca and SPC Annmarie LaDuca are both active duty members of the U.S. Army. Ben has served two tours in Iraq in the first three years of his service. He left for boot camp one week after high school graduation. Currently, he is one of the recruiters for the U.S. Army Cheektowaga Office. Annmarie is currently stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, as a 41 Alpha. They are my heroes.

– Cynthia LaDuca

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Katie Boone
Katie Boone

I would like to honor my veteran, my brave sister who is enlisted in the United States Navy. She is currently on a 10-month tour in the Arabian Sea and is due home in March of 2013. Every day is a new struggle for my family and I as we pray for her safety and a quick, safe return home. She is one of the strongest people I know, and I respect her so much for what she is doing for our country and our freedom. Hooyah, my sailor!! We miss and love you more and more every day and can’t wait to see your pretty face again real soon!!!

– Jenny Brown

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Micheal Grimmer
Micheal Grimmer

I’m so proud of my little cousin, as he has done two tours in the Middle East and is being redeployed to Japan in a few months and was and will be missed again. He is the USMC from Pendleton and is a great brother, cousin and, recently, an outstanding husband. And the whole family is so VERY PROUD OF HIM.

– John Levinson

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Gene McGee
Gene McGee

I am the veteran. I would like to say WELCOME HOME to all veterans. I was with the 101st Airborne In Vietnam. Remember that we’re here for all veterans and will help in any way. I had a hard time trying to find something that I could do to help, so I found the Patriot Guard. I do this to honor all veterans.

– Gene McGee

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Joshua Lawrence
Joshua Lawrence

My veteran is my boyfriend Joshua. We have been together for almost two years. He served in the United States Army. He was deployed to Iraq for 15 months and has medically discharged due to injuries sustained while there. He is the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back in the middle of a blizzard. There are a few things he deeply loves, and our country is at the top of his list. He has given so much for all of us, as have so many veterans out there. I am so proud of everything he has done and so thankful to have him in my life. Thank you to all who have served our country and to those who continue to serve!!

– Elizabeth Sechrist

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Rich Brewer
Rich Brewer

I would like to honor my son-in-law Rich on Veterans Day for his service in the Army. He served 15 months in Iraq, and during that time, he received numerous awards for his outstanding accomplishments, including the Purple Heart. Thank you Rich. We all love you and thank you!

– Debbie Pozantides

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Martin Kriegbaum is my son-in-law and is married to my daughter, Rita. He is currently stationed in Afghanistan. They celebrated their first wedding anniversary on November 5 this year. He is an amazing young man, and we are very proud of our Marine. Thinking of you and praying for your safe return, Martin!

– Lisa Jordan

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Leonard Guarino
Leonard Guarino

My father-in-law, Leonard Guarino, is a resident of the NYS Veterans Home in Batavia. He is 93 (born 4/11/1919). He is a veteran of World War II and also the Korean War. He served in the Marines and also the Navy. He was the youngest of a bunch of brothers and was always getting the snot beat out of him. He kept telling his dad that when he was old enough, he was going to run away from home (Mt. Morris, N.Y.). Well, when he was 15 or 16, he started hitchhiking and didn’t go back for almost 30 years!! He went from New York to Florida and then on to San Francisco by foot or train (hobo style!). He finally joined the military when he was 18. And to this day, he can still tell stories as if it were yesterday! When he finally moved back to New York, he married my husband’s mother, Margaret Wadams, and took on her four young children (she had lost her husband to prostate cancer when my husband was seven or eight). He became an instant father to her four kids, and they had one together. To this day, he is a wonderful, loving, funny, honest, heartwarming gentleman, and we love him with all our heart. The staff at the NYS Vets home also love him and take wonderful care of him. He lived by himself (after my mother-in-law passed away about seven or eight years ago) until he had gallbladder problems in 2011 and wasn’t able to recover enough from it to go back home. So he has been a resident there for a little over a year and is doing just great. Besides being pretty much wheelchair bound, he is content just staying in his room and watching TV all day…never complains about anything and is always good for a laugh every day we stop in to visit him. So this Veterans Day, we honor and love our father, Leonard Guarino.

– Sue and Gary Wadams

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Kristy Bly
Kristy Bly

Kristy is currently an E7 working full time for the Army National Guard. She was active duty for 10 years and has a total of 14 years of service. She was deployed to Afghanistan for a one-year tour from 2008-09. She currently lives in WNY and is raising a beautiful baby girl, Libby. We are very proud of our veteran. :)

– Meghan Covert

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Daniel Torres
Daniel Torres

Pictured right, my father, Master Sergeant Daniel Torres, Sr.! Pictured left, General of the 101st Airborne Division. HOOAH! Thanks for serving, Daddy.

– Daniella Torres

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Joe Kane is retired from the U.S. Army. Joe Auer is retired from the U.S. Coast Guard. Tom Kane spent 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. April Kane spent 12 years in the U.S. Army and raised two wonderful girls.

– Joe Kane

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Allan Steve Bo Gobeli
Allan, Steve + Bo Gobeli

This is a picture of my grandfather, father and myself. My grandfather served in the Navy, my father the Army and myself the Air Force. God bless all our troops and their families.

– Bo Gobeli

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Casey Craumer
Casey Craumer

My husband, Casey Craumer, our hero! He served in the army for six years with two deployments in Afghanistan. His first deployment was 15 months. When he returned home, we got married. The next year, we had a son, and 21 days after his birth, Casey deployed again to Afghanistan. He was there for two months when he returned home with his best friend’s body. He was killed while serving his country. After being by the side of his best friend’s wife, he returned to Afghanistan for five months until I received “the call.” On June 7, he was injured and on his way to Germany for surgery. He was hit by an IED and had so many injuries. We were so lucky to have him come home to us!! He received two Purple Hearts in his six years and was honorably discharged from the army in March 2011!!! He is our hero, and we are so thankful he came home to us that day!

To the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice, especially the ones close to our heart — Bob, Carlos, Brendan — RIP and thank you!

– Erin Craumer

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Shawn Saddleson Cody McKellar
Shawn Saddleson + Cody McKellar

My two heroes — Shawn, my son, and best friend Cody — went into the Air Force after they graduated high school. They are members of the 914th Security Forces based out of Niagara Falls. They joined together and stayed together for two tours, first in Iraq and then Afghanistan. They are true Americans defending our country. We as mothers pray every night for all our men and women over there. I am so blessed to have my son and Cody home safe. They are now home and finishing school, and I am just soooooo proud of both of them.

– Debra Saddleson Roselle

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Jared Wygant
Jared Wygant

My son, EO3 Jared Wygant, is a Seabee with the U.S. Navy, currently stationed in Gulfport, Miss. He joined right after high school and has served four years now and just re-enlisted. He was deployed to Afghanistan from January 2012 to July 2012 and worked with the Afghan army teaching them how to use the heavy equipment. I am so proud of him and all our military working to keep us safe!! God bless them all!!

– Laura Haberer

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Tony Dwigun
Tony Dwigun

Well, Mr.Tony, I have known for some time now. He is a very kind and very caring gentlemen. I do not know much about his military service because he does not talk about it much. When it comes to that part of his life, in my opinion, he sees it as something he wanted to do, not something he had to do. I respect him very much, and I hope he knows how much everybody appreciates all he has done.

– MargaretAnn Sotack

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Matthew Caruso
Matthew Caruso

My husband, Matthew Caruso, was a sergeant with the United States Army. He served in the Infantry and was stationed with The Honor Guard in Arlington National Cemetery, where he was the firing party commander.

– Stephanie Caruso

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Joseph Breinlinger
Joseph Breinlinger

Joe was a Staff Sergeant Artillery Operations Chief in the Marine Corp. He joined the Marines when he was 18. Joe was stationed in Japan for nine years, did three tours to the Philippines, Iraq and Afghanistan. While he was doing his tour in Afghanistan, he tore his meniscus. This is where his dream job ended, and every day, he wishes he could be back with his men, but he’s thankful to be home with his family.

– Carrie Schultz

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John J Marlett
John J. Marlett

My veteran, John J. Marlett (also my fiance). Deployed in 2008-2009 to Iraq. Got injured in ’09. He served five years in the Army. Stayed at Walter Reed for two years recovering from his injuries. Now live in West Falls, N.Y.

I would like to mention all the vets at the Legion/VFW in East Aurora (and everywhere) — plenty of heroes there, too. :)

– Sam D. Marlett

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Raymond Ellis
Raymond Ellis

My brother, Raymond, has been in the U.S. Navy since he graduated high school back in 2002. He has been deployed overseas more than I remember. He has also done a year tour in Guantanamo Bay. In this time he has managed to meet an amazing girl that he just married the end of September. He is the best uncle to my kids and the best brother/son that any of us can ask for. No matter how far away he is, he always makes his family his first priority. He is now a Petty Officer Third Class, and soon we hope that he makes Second. I’m honoring him today because of who he is and what he stands for. When he is not at work he helps out with programs such as the Wounded Warrior Group.

– Anna Burris

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My son joined the USMC after going to school one day and talking to a recruiter on Veterans Day a few years ago. He served four years, was sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and continues in the Marine Reserve Unit in Rochester. I am very proud of my son that he stepped up when his country needed him and continues to serve to better the lives of his family and his country.

– Wanda Irwin

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Zachary Roberts
Zachary Roberts

The veteran I would like to honor is my son, LCcpl Zachary Roberts, who is currently serving in the Middle East aboard the USS Iwo Jima. Zachary has been deployed for the last eight months and is expected to arrive back at his Marine Corps base at the end of this month. His mother and I will travel down to New River Marine Air Base, N.C., and welcome him back to the USA . Zachary has been a marine for two last two two years. He was honored with being the Marine of the Quarter last year, and most recently, he was honored with being the Marine of the Day on the USS Iwo Jima. He wanted to take after his grandfather and be a marine early on in his life. He also has a younger brother that is a junior in high school and also plans on being a marine. His mother and I are so proud of the man he has become.

– Brent Roberts

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Valdeen Burris Jr
Valdeen Burris Jr.

My husband, Valdeen, served in more than one branch of the U.S. Military. He was in the Marines, Navy and Army. He was a Petty Officer Third Class. He got an honorable discharge back in 2004. There isn’t a day that goes by that we are not proud of him and everything he does for us. He is a great husband/father/son.

– Anna Burris

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My dad was a Vietnam veteran. He fought very hard for his country — he was a great man!! He showed me lots of pictures and had many great memories and not so great memories. My father died two years ago on November 9 at 61 years old of lung cancer. I miss him every day. At his service, they had the Marines and the guns out. They folded my father’s flag and gave it to me. The service was just beautiful. Thank you for letting me share my story!!! God bless all the vets!!!

– Amy Spampinato

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Michael Cowell
Michael Cowell

My husband just retired from the Air Force in May 2012 after 21 years of active duty . He served all over the world, most recently in Iraq in 2011. Our family just moved back to Western New York to be close to our families. He is a great husband and wonderful father to our two children.

– Jennelle Cowell

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Frank Koerber
Frank Koerber

Frank Koerber is a Vietnam veteran. He is a true hero, and I am so lucky to have him be such a huge part of my life. He is a wonderful father and husband. Frank loves to share his Vietnam stories and memories with his family and friends, and he has an extensive collection of Vietnam memorabilia, which he enjoys showcasing to people. My dad is a survivor, a hero and my best friend.

– Mary Koerber

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