Niagara Gazette — On hand for Friday’s luncheon were several members of the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Airlift Wing, which is stationed at the Niagara Falls Airbase, including Col. Kevin Rogers, Col. John Higgins, Lt. Col. Mike Bank, Chief Master Sgt. Dave Wohleben and Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd.
Rogers said when contacted by his unit’s public relations representative about the possibility of attending Friday’s luncheon, he and the others “jumped” at the chance.
“I believe that they are the greatest generation,” Rogers said. “They were born during the Depression, fought a war, came home, put themselves through college and pretty much built this country.”
Fadel said at one time the annual gatherings drew upwards of 150 people. He acknowledged that as the years have past, the numbers have dwindled, down to about 50 in attendance this year. All of the remaining class members are in their 80s and beyond. Nearly all in attendance served in the military in one branch or another, most during World War II.
Richard Lacey, a member of the graduating class of 1943, recalled his days as a machine gunner who was sent to Europe just after the invasion of Normandy. The 87-year-old LaSalle resident said his unit did a lot of fighting in France and a lot of walking as he carried his 45-pound machine gun on his shoulder.
Lacey said he feels fortunate for having come home safe. He said he also feels for today’s active duty troops and appreciates what they’ve gone through in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s unfortunate that we’ve got to have wars all the time,” he said. “At least we knew who we were shooting at. The guys over there don’t know who they are shooting at half the time.”
Lacey was among the lucky ones who survived the war. He came back to the Falls where he worked at Union Carbide and eventually retired from Wendt’s Dairy. Today, he’s active in the retired men’s choir and boasts that he played 34 times at the Hyde Park Golf Course this year.
“I got my money’s worth,” he quipped.
As for those classmates of his that weren’t as fortunate, Lacey said it’s important every year to remember them and what they did in service to their country.
“It’s important because the fellas that sacrificed their lives over there in the different zones where they fought, I knew a lot of them,” he said.