OSWEGO, NY – Senator Patty Ritchie visited with the Oswego County “Battle of the Bulge” veterans on Saturday afternoon to announce a special honor for the group. The group meets at Bridie Manor.
The organization, started several years ago by veteran and former Oswego Common Councilor John Canale, has been named to the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame.
“I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated it when you invited me to your luncheon several months ago,” the senator told the group, which was joined by other veterans as well as OHS students.
When the Senate asked who she’d like to nominate to be in the hall of fame, “the only thing that I could think of was to honor this group. It was a pleasure to be able to do that,” she said. “As soon as I mentioned the Battle of the Bulge, everyone down there was in support of it, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.”
The senator admitted she “broke the rules.”
“I was supposed to be limited to just one person. But they said, ‘Wow, let’s do the whole group.’ They thought it was that important,” she explained.
It’s the first time a group of veterans has been named collectively to the hall of fame, which was created to honor and recognize outstanding veterans from the Empire State who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life.
“On this weekend especially, thank you for what you’ve done for our country. The Oswego County ‘Battle of the Bulge’ veterans served their nation when they were needed most and continued that legacy throughout decades of service to their communities,” Ritchie said. “Brothers in combat, they still band together to perform educational service for their neighbors and friends, sharing their stories and military traditions with new generations. Their sacrifice, patriotism, service and dedication to community and country have earned them a place in the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame.”
“You didn’t go there for glory. You didn’t go there because you wanted to conquer a nation. You went there because it was the right thing to do,” said Rev. George Reed who delivered the blessings at Saturday’s meeting. “You went there to free other people.”
The Oswego County Battle of the Bulge veterans helped beat back Hitler’s Ardennes Offensive during the winter of 1944-45, a campaign that Winston Churchill called “undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war.”
It was also the bloodiest – with 89,500 casualties.
“It was one of those things where they needed a stopping force to slow down the German advances,” said Paul Santore, whose father was a veteran of the battle. “When they threw together this plan, you weren’t supposed to win – but you were never told that! So you went ahead and won that battle. God bless you all for that.”
“I would like to thank Sen. Patty Ritchie for selecting my group to be recognized as one of our outstanding group of veterans in the State of New York,” said Canale, chair of the Oswego County Battle of the Bulge veterans.
Canale will represent the group at a ceremony to be held in Albany on June 14, Flag Day.
The Oswego County “Battle of the Bulge” Veterans is among the largest gathering of soldiers from a single engagement in the nation.
Today, the group also includes veterans from Afghanistan, Korea and Vietnam.
SSgt. John M. Canale, chairman
Pvt. Harold Blake
PO2 Fred Crisafulli
Cpl. Bill Hogan
W.O.J.G Len Lambert
Pfc. Bill Leighton
Sgt. Fred Lockwood
Pfc. Len Maniccia
Tec5 Alfred Myhill
Pfc. Bob Ochsenbein
SSgt. Phil Pecora
Sfc. Charles Phallen
Justin Baum (Afghanistan)
QM2 Alex Beattle (Korea)
Sgt. Miles Becker (Vietnam)
Tom Halpin (Korea)
SSgt. Matt Bush*
“This is the best part of my job, being able to meet great people like these veterans. Our nation owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude. It’s an honor for me to meet each and every one of them,” the senator told Oswego County Today.
The New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame, created in 2005, contains biographies of veterans across our state who have been nominated by their senators.
It can be viewed online by visiting http://www.nysenate.gov/veterans-hall-of-fame