Roma Sawchyn, in honor of the fallen

On this and every Memorial Day, I honor all of the U.S. veterans who have given their lives in service to this country. God bless them all. I also remember members of my family who served. Three of my uncles emigrated to America from Ukraine just after World War II. Each was drafted and served in different ways: --My Uncle Ray (Roman Sawchyn) served in the Korean War. --My Uncle Jerry (Jaroslav Sawchyn) was stationed in Germany. --My Uncle Johnny (John Wernega) had his draft postponed several times as he worked to build dies for a military aeronautical program. Eventually, he served stateside at Fort Jackson and Fort Hood. My uncles came to America with members of my family who were looking for a safe place to live after the war. Lady Liberty welcomed my family with open arms. When my uncles were called, they were honored to serve their new country, the beacon of freedom in all the world. God bless them and God bless the United States of America, my home sweet home.

Jennifer Cranston McEntee, in honor of the lessons her father taught her.

For my dad, Capt. John Conrad Cranston, III. For every flight over Vietnam; every safe landing; every time you got your guys home; and every time you stood up when you were called upon. Thank you for teaching me that if you fall down seven times, you damn well better stand up eight.

Missy Livingston Farkouh in honor of the Marines who lost their lives in Beirut.

I grew up knowing nothing about life outside of the Marine Corps. We lived on every Marine Corps base all around the world. One of the most painful memories while living in Camp Lejeune, was the bombing in Beirut. Many of my friend's parents and neighbors did not come home. I dedicate my hero story to the Marines who lost their lives in Beirut. Lest we forget!

Tom Bielli, in honor of breaking all the rules.

Whenever MAP requests me to do anything, my knee-jerk reaction is to say yes without looking into what I am agreeing to. This is one of those situations. Now, I see that I am supposed to make a statement about my hero. Anyone who knows me knows that this is not something that I am comfortable doing. I cannot pinpoint one "hero" in my life, there are many. I cannot pinpoint one Veteran who has made a difference in my life, there are quite a few. So, instead of following the instructions, I am going to do what I want. 1) Thank you to all the Veterans who have served our country and touched my life. There are a number of you that I have come across in various stages of my life both personally and professionally. I want to use this platform to say Thank You. 2) Thank you MAP. I think MAP is a great organization. The vision of MAP is simple, precise and effective - surgical, may be a better word. I have observed the direct benefit that MAP provides to those who have served our Country. Its ability to remove financial obstacles from the path of Veterans is worthy of our thanks. Happy Memorial Day Weekend, and please consider supporting the Military Assistance Project.

Dan Astin in honor of Donald Brown, Sr.

My grandfather, Donald K. Brown Sr., hailed from Harriman, Tennessee and spent most of WWII on the USS Saratoga.  He raised me to be hard working and loyal to my family and friends. Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class Donald K. Brown went no further than the 8th grade, was 5'6" tall, and was a fisherman, tradesman, yodeler, harmonica player and most of all my hero. 

He wanted to serve his country so much that nine days after Pearl Harbor he left his ranch job out west where his family had migrated.  At just 17 years of age he enlisted at the Navy Recruiting District in Utah.  After enlistment he was ordered to boot camp in Long Beach California, thereafter joined his carrier air wing in Bremerton, Washington, served over three years in the Pacific combat theater. After the war he received orders to Naval Air Station Atlantic City.  There he met my grandmother, 16 and still in bobby sox and saddle shoes.  She was the chauffeur's daughter, her father was an employee of Mayor White, whose family owned the fabulous Atlantic City hotel,  the Marlborough Blenheim.  Nine days after they met my grandfather and grandmother were married before a Judge.   After the war my grandfather was discharged from Lido Beach, Long Island, New York- settling in veterans housing in the "Venice Park" section of Atlantic City.   

Donald K. Brown received a posthumous Presidential Unit Citation from President Carter.   He passed away in February 1979, at the young age of 55.    

I always think of him on Memorial Day for the effort that he made  to support his country.   Rather than ride the war out ranching and awaiting the draft, he (like so many other men of the greatest generation) dropped what he was doing and heeded his country's call in its darkest hour.    

This Memorial Day may we remember all the men and women who have ever served in uniform- their patriotism has allowed us to enjoy our freedoms and privileges as citizens of the greatest country on earth.  

God bless these men and women and God bless these United States of America! 

Bill Baldini in honor of First Lieutenant Ralph Galati

Using the word “Hero”

On February 10, 1972 my cousin Christine was born. Her father (my godfather), First Lieutenant Ralph Galati, was in the US Air Force and fighting in Vietnam at the time. He was told about his daughter being born, and was asked to be safe. He told his parents, sister and his wife not to worry, and that the only time they will ever have to worry is when uniformed officers come to their door, because if they do … he’s dead. SIX DAYS LATER, on February 16, 1972, Ralph was shot down and captured, becoming the second youngest US POW, at 23 years old. Uniformed officers visited his parents’ house to break the news. They were just relieved to hear he was alive. Ralph’s plane was shot down because he was the strike team leader on an air strike deep inside hostile territory. Photo reconnaissance of the target area was extremely limited, so he was primarily tasked to locate and mark the targets for the strike flights which followed. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Lieutenant Galati remained in this extremely hostile environment for over two hours locating targets and directing strikes against these targets, despite continually receiving intense antiaircraft fire. He saved countless US lives that day, went on to the rank of Captain and won the Silver Star, which is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

Ralph overcame grueling events and heinous torture, in his 406 days as a POW. He contends that the need to see his daughter was what kept him alive, and she was definitely the catalyst, but to be honest the kind of inner strength and toughness it takes to not only survive, but to thrive, comes from him, and only him… That, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes up a “hero”.

Dianna Schwartz in honor of  John H. Blisard

John (or Pop Pop, as I knew him) was born and raised in the Kingsessing section of Philadelphia. He entered the Army in his twenties and served in World War II, where he was stationed in Germany. Growing up, I always heard about John's military legacy; blowing up a BMW factory in the midst of Nazi Germany. (Several of his relatives would eventually "remember" his heroic actions- by driving BMWs). John returned from the war with a Purple Heart and well developed quality assurance skills. His natural talents for issue spotting and machinery diagnostics landed him at Department of Defense in Philadelphia, where he worked until retirement. John built houses for his family, fixed cars, purchased and harvested an orchard, and raised a family with a girl he met in Kingsessing; my grandmother, Anna Frances Donnelly. When died of a brain tumor on Veteran's Day in 1984, he was surrounded by his wife, three daughters, two son in laws, and two grandchildren- including my 3 year old self. Every one of those family members, and many more friends and community members, would remark for decades to come that John was simply "one of a kind". He was a man's man. He was a hero to us all.