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November 11, 2013

Holiday sparks memories for local veterans

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — For Anthony “Tony” Cece, 74, of Worcester, who was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne, Veterans Day is a day to remember his late brothers’ service as paratroopers.

 “It feels like I am with them,” when he participates in such activities, said Cece.

His brother Ray joined the Army to fight in World War II after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was in the 82nd Airborne, jumping into battles including the invasion of Normandy. He went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He retired as a sergeant major after a 33-year career. 

Cece called Ray “my hero” because of his years of service. He followed Ray, and his brother Johnny, who joined the 11th Airborne also during World War II. Cece said he enlisted in the Army after high school and served from 1959-61, including 27 jumps. He left for a career in business because of family issues, moving to Worcester, after retirement in 1989.

His son Jeffrey also served as a paratrooper including during the 1989-90 invasion of Panama, he said.

Cece is a member of the Oneonta American Legion and participates in the honor guard when possible.

 “I do this for my brothers,” he said. 

He often brings their photograph when participating in such events as the Veterans Day ceremony.

Oneonta resident John P. Nowhitney, 90, enlisted in the Navy and served from 1942-1946. The Oneonta American Legion member worked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Belleau Wood, tending to the ammunition, rockets and bombs for its planes. 

His Veterans Day memories include the 92 pilots and shipmates who died in a October 1944 Kamikaze attack on the carrier. 

“I was lucky” to survive that and other events, Nowhitney said.

He also thinks about his family’s tradition of Navy service.

 His father served in World War I on a destroyer, and “I was in World War II following in his footsteps,” Nowhitney said. 

His son John was in the Navy and served during Desert Storm. 

“We came to the aid of our country to preserve our freedom,” Nowhitney said. 

He was inducted into the state Senate Veterans Hall of Fame for his service in combat that also earned him honors including the World War II Victory Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, Combat Action Ribbon, and Philippine Liberation Medal with two stars.

Oneonta American Legion Commander Len Carson said that Post 259 will host its traditional Veterans Day ceremony starting at 11 a.m. in Neahwa Park. The Ladies Auxiliary will provide refreshments following at the Legion Post on Chestnut Street.

Other communities that will have Veterans Day activities include Morris, where there will be a 1 p.m. chicken-and-biscuit luncheon at the Morris American Legion Post free to veterans. The Laurens Legion will hold activities at 11 a.m. on Main Street. Milford will hold a Veterans Day service at 10 a.m at the United Methodist Church. New Berlin United Methodist Church will hold a veterans reception from 2 to 6 p.m. at 51 S. Main St. The Oxford American Legion Post will hold its event at 11 a.m. at the Fort Hill Post at 17 S. Washington Ave. Worcester Historical Society will hold an honor roll of World War II Veterans at 7 p.m at 144 Main St.