Vets club honors families of local soldiers

Sarah Eames | The Daily Star Roxanne Condon, left, of Mount Vision, accepts a Blue Star banner from Oneonta American Legion Post 259 Commander Terry Harkenreader, center, and Wayne Gregory, right, president of the Oneonta Veterans Club, during a Tuesday ceremony honoring the families of active-duty military members.

The families of five local residents serving in the military were honored in a Blue Star ceremony hosted Tuesday by the Oneonta Veterans Club.

“We all know as your children or husbands or wives are in the military, you’re serving, too,” said Terry Harkenreader, commander of Oneonta American Legion Post 259. “So thank you for your service, too.”

In a tradition dating back more than a century, families whose children actively serve in the military are presented with Blue Star banners to honor their sacrifice, according to Wayne Gregory, president of the Oneonta Veterans Club, who organized the ceremony.

“The banner, to be displayed in a front window, shows that a family has a loved one serving in the armed forces, and reminds others that preserving America’s freedom demands much,” Gregory said.

The banner became the unofficial symbol of family members in the service during World War I, according to Greogry. During World War II, the U.S. Department of War issued specifications for its manufacture: a white field, eight-and-a-half by 14 inches, with a red border and a blue star.

The Blue Star fell out of use during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Gregory said, but the American Legion revived the tradition in recent years.

“As the war on terrorism continues, the Blue Star banner tradition reminds us that this new war touches every neighborhood in our land,” he said.

Flanked by the flags of all six military branches, each family member came forward to accept a banner and describe the military service of their loved one.

Kim Lindberg of Oneonta said her son, John, a captain in the United States Marine Corps, returned last month from his deployment in Afghanistan. 

Otego resident Lois Proctor said her son, Anthony Jelic, serves in the Marine Corps Military Police and is stationed in Hawaii.

Wearing a red “Marine Mom” shirt, Oneonta resident Deb Quick said her son, Alfred, was recently promoted to sergeant in the Marine Corps and is preparing for his second deployment to Kuwait.

She showed a photo of her son posing in front of a C-130 military transport aircraft with Tom Cruise, whom she said filmed many of the scenes for the upcoming “Top Gun” sequel at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, where her son is stationed.

Ericka Ericson of Mount Vision accepted a banner in honor of her cousin, Chad, who she said works as a machinist in the Navy, building ship parts in San Diego.

Ericka and Chad’s cousin, Leif Ericson, also serves in the Navy and was represented by his mother, Roxanne Condon of Mount Vision.

Condon said her son is a corpsman stationed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Bruce Von Holtz, Post adjutant, concluded the ceremony with a reading of “Blue Star Mothers,” a poem penned by Faye Sizemore in 2003:

“Mothers… do weep…

but your faithfulness keep:

You raised your sweet children…

You raised them to recognize a wrong

to always defend and protect those not strong

to seek the truth in this cruel world

Now about them the battles may swirl

They have their promises to keep

Mothers… with you we weep… 

 

When war does rage

recorded again on history’s page

and Death counts its toll

pray your children are not on its role

This matters above everything

for when it is done and freedom does ring

Mothers, your praises they will sing

But for now its price is so steep

Mothers… for you we weep…”

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.