Veterans gathered Thursday evening for the welcoming ceremony
MAHOPAC- It was an emotional evening at the Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park Thursday when more than 250 men and women gathered to pay their respects to the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Wall, a scale version of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The wall arrived in a caravan escorted by more than 125 motorcyclists 24 hours earlier.
During an hour-long ceremony welcoming the wall to Putnam for the fourth time, County Executive MaryEllen Odell described the park as “hallowed ground during the visit of this magnificent monument because every veteran in attendance tonight and those listed on the wall are part of Putnam County history.”
The wall contains the names of 58,272 members of the military including eight women who perished during the Vietnam War and 12 men from Putnam County.
Putnam’s heroes include Michael McDonald of Carmel, Keith Livermore of Garrison, Robert Gillen of Putnam Valley, Kenneth Totten of Brewster, William Keeler of Patterson, William Todd of Mahopac, Edward Starr of Patterson, Robert Vinscotski of Putnam Valley, James Foster of Patterson, Frank Marconi of Carmel, William Bushey of Mahopac and Harry Lagerwall of Carmel.
The evening had special meaning for the county’s Director of Veterans Affairs Karl Rohde and former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer who both served in the same unit during the war.
Spencer admitted that it took him five years to visit the memorial in our nation’s capital after it was unveiled. “When I saw that memorial, I broke down. I cry every day thinking about the names on the wall including the 36 from Yonkers and Putnam County’s dozen heroes. Being here this evening is cathartic because we no longer treat veterans the way we were treated when arriving home.”
Rohde, a Silver Star recipient five days after he turned 21 years of age, was called by emcee Art Hanley the “face of veterans in Putnam County.”
Rohde said while the Vietnam Memorial Wall is part of American history, “it’s time to honor the warriors who came after us. We must never forget the way we were treated but also remember that nice things happen to Vietnam vets. We just must look for them.”
Rohde added that the mission of the wall project was to “travel across the U.S. to honor, respect and remember men and women who served while paying specific tribute to those who gave all in that service.”