A popular movie in the 1970s was a western entitled “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” A good portion of the movie involved Butch and Sundance being chased by some unknown posse.
They kept saying, “Who are those guys?”
Well in real life, Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid were true-life western legends; glamorized and embellished by Hollywood. You might say of our Veterans Next Door, “Who are those guys?” They rightfully deserve mention, recognition and respect, and they aren’t being chased by a posse.
Allan Atwell quickly comes to mind. He’s an Army veteran of the Battle of the Bulge who suffered frostbitten feet in 1944, but today has a heart that is warm and understanding. He is a director of Patriot Flight Inc, former president of the local Battle of the Bulge Association and the best mentor and friend this writer appreciates so much.
A few 95-year-olds deserve mentioning. One is Evan Lagrave, a Marine who fought in the Island Hopping of the Pacific during World War II. Evan has a goal to make it to 100 and is on a strong track. I spoke with him in February, and he was so excited about going to Saranac Lake to go ice fishing. He was waiting for spring to go golfing, kayaking and fishing. He may wear down many others who are many years younger.
Other Army veterans who are approaching the century mark — and deserve the recognition and honor for their service over 70 years ago — are Charlie Kapner and Bill Leunig. They are veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and are agile. They enjoy the TGIV Fridays at the Gateway Diner in Albany on occasion and always enjoy speaking to other veterans and patriots.
We will never forget the Korean War veterans, especially the regulars at TGIV Fridays at the Gateway. Two Korean War veterans have seen it from a different perspective. Frank Nati, a member of the Army infantry, stated to me, “You could not believe the number of enemies coming at us … so many were only 15 and 16 year olds.” Bruce Barnes was into cryptography and the map analysis business, and was stationed stateside.
The summer is filled with the young Vietnam veterans of my generation, who are active both in helping other veterans and coming out to meet more Americans. Every current troop or veteran who served after Vietnam should go up and thank a Vietnam veteran. They taught this country that veterans should never be treated the way they were when they came home. If you don’t like the messages of our leaders, do not take it out on our protectors and honorable troops. Many of the Vietnam veterans are your Veteran Next Door.
In my case, my Veterans Next Door are my brothers Joe and John, who live in the Albany area. Both Army veterans served in Vietnam in different war areas. Joe was on the base in Saigon, having warm meals, cool showers and cool beds. John tells the story when he slept in a chicken coop in the Mekong Delta.
Lastly, I will briefly mention my good friend, Angelo Picarazzi, because a future story will cover more details. As he told me, he had “a walking tour of France and Germany” as an Army infantryman who was at D-Day (second wave), Battle of St Lo, Battle of the Bulge and cross the Remagen Bridge before it collapsed. He was wounded three times, and God made sure Angelo “lived with the angels.”
So, “Who are those guys?” They are your Veterans Next Door. Give them a big thank you.