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Green Island issues diplomas to five veterans; honors 13 Purple Heart recipients

Presenting a diplomaGreen Island school officials joined forces with the local American Legion to honor veterans and present diplomas to those who sacrificed their education for the nation.

Superintendent Kimberly Ross presented diplomas to the families and friends of five locals who left school to serve the nation during WWII and the Korean War. Four of those soldiers died in service to their country. 

Also recognized during the Nov. 10 event were 13 Purple Heart recipients who have been inducted into the National Purple Heart Hall of Fame.

The ceremony was conducted at the Legnard-Curtin American Legion Post 927 in Green Island and livestreamed to students in the Green Island school.

Those honored with high school diplomas were:

  • Private First Class Joseph C. Gregware, U.S. Army, who was killed in action on Feb. 9, 1945. Gregware left Heatly in 1943 and enlisted later that year in the U.S. Army.
  • Corporal Robert Keenan, U.S. Army, who was captured by the Germans and held at Stalag A for 301 days before being liberated by U.S. forces. He attended Lansingburgh Schools before leaving to enlist in the military in 1943. After returning from service, he moved to Green Island where he resided for 43 years, passing away in 1989.
  • Private First Class Joseph Kucskar, U.S. Army, who died Nov. 9, 1942 while being held as a prisoner of Japanese forces in the South Pacific following the infamous Bataan Death March. He attended schools in Connecticut before moving to Watervliet, but did not complete his schooling before enlisting in the military.
  • Private Thomas H Sloliker, U.S. Army, who died in a North Korean prison camp on Feb. 21, 1951 during the Korean Conflict. He attended Heatly in the fifth grade before going to St. Joseph’s School and ultimately leaving Troy High School without graduating to enlist in the military.
  • Private Louis A. Szatalski, U.S. Army, who was killed in action during the invasion of Italy on July 10, 1943. He attended Green Island in the 1930s, but left school to support his mother and brother during the Great Depression and ultimately enlisted in the National Guard in 1938.

During the ceremony, Legion and school officials also honored 13 men who earned the Purple Heart in service to their country and have been inducted into the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. They are:

Veterans poseWorld War I:

  • Private Thomas Curtin, U.S. Army, killed in action in the Battle of the Argonne Forest on Oct. 16, 1918.
  • Private Frank Legnard, U.S. Marine Corps, seriously wounded in the Battle of Belleau Wood.
  • Private John B, Legnard, U.S. Marine Corps, killed in action in the St. Mihiel Offensive on Oct. 6, 1918.
  • Private John Murray, U.S. Army, killed in action in the Battle of the Argonne Forest on Oct. 12, 1918.

World War II

  • Private First Class Joseph C. Gregware, U.S. Army, killed in action in the Rhineland Campaign on Feb. 9. 1945.
  • First Lieutenant Anthony Iozzo, U.S. Army, killed in action in the Battle of Hedgerows on July 12, 1944.
  • Private Joseph Kucksar, U.S. Army, died in Japanese prisoner of war Camp Cabanatuan on Nov. 9, 1942. He had survived the infamous Bataan Death March only to die from malnutrition.
  • Machinist Third Class John P. O’Brien, U.S. Navy, killed after an enemy mine sunk his ship on July 26, 1944.
  • Private Louis A. Szatalski, U.S. Army, killed in action in the invasion of Italy on July 10, 1943.

Korean War

  • Private William E. (Ned) Haggerty, U.S. Army, who received a Purple Heart for wounds he received in the Battle of Pork Chop Hill on April 16, 1953 and a second Purple Heart for wounds he received on July 4, 1953 – also at Pork Chop Hill.
  • Private William W. Kelly, U.S. Army, killed in action on Sept. 21, 1952 defending Hill 266.
  • Private James J. Neaton, U.S. Army, killed in action on July 12, 1950 during an operation to slow the advanced of North Korean forces.
  • Private Thomas H. Stoliker, U.S. Army, died from hypothermia and malnutrition as a prisoner of war in a North Korean POW camp on Feb. 21, 1951.

“Veterans Day is the perfect day to hold this event and recognize these individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice or served their country with distinction,” said Tom Mullins, a Green Island resident who helps to organize the event.

Of the five diplomas, four are being issued to soldiers who were killed in service to their country.

“I would like to thank Mr. Mullins for all his hard work organizing this wonderful event and the Green Island Board of Education for their continued and unwavering support for this program,” said Green Island Superintendent of Schools Kimberly Ross.

“These soldiers served their country with honor and distinction and many of made the ultimate sacrifice. Presenting their families and loved with their high school diplomas is the least we as a community could do to thank them,” she added.

The Green Island Union Free School District has been teaming up with the American Legion for the past three years to present diplomas to those who left school to serve their country, often times never returning home. from Green Island as part of the effort.

Check out the media coverage of the ceremony: