Holley dedicates new historical marker for 9 who died in Vietnam War

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 May 2024 at 3:41 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – The top of a new historical marker includes artwork by Holley teacher Kayla Thrower. The marker was unveiled and dedicated today for the 9 “Holley Boys” who were killed during the Vietnam War.

Those young men include: John P. Davis, age 30: David Duane Case, 20; Ronald P. Sisson, 23; Howard L. Bowen, 20; Gary E. Bullock, 24; Gary Lee Stymus, 26; George Warren Fischer Jr., 23; Paul Scott Mandracchia, 18; and David States, 21.

Nick D’Amura, a former middle/high school history teacher at Holley, gave the keynote address. He is shown taking a photo with his phone. D’Amura now works for the Genesee Valley BOCES in Le Roy.

He taught at Holley for 10 years and his classes researched the Holley men who died in the Vietnam War.

Holley suffered one of the highest casualty rates in the country during Vietnam, and D’Amura said the losses are still felt deeply in the community.

The marker is next to the former Holley High School, where eight of the nine soldiers graduated.

“They grew up in a small town,” D’Amura said. “They played sports. They were in the marching band. They revved up cars.”

Melissa Ierlan, Clarendon town historian, hugs D’AMura after his speech.

D’Amura’s Holley students helped with the wording on the marker. In addition to listing the names of the Holley soldiers, the marker states the following:

“This marker is to commemorate the nine young men who lost their lives in service to their country during the conflict in Vietnam. The ‘Holley Boys’ attended classes here at the high school in the heart of the village before war called them to adulthood. They grew up with stories of their fathers from battlefields past, and each of them served with distinction when the great battle of their age arrived.

“Holley sent her finest when called.”

The marker ends with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Ierlan pushed for the monument and secured funding from the Elizabeth Dye Curtis Foundation, Clarendon Historical Society and Murray-Holley Historical Society.

Dan Mawn, president of the Murray-Holley Historical Society, was among about 150 people who attended the dedication ceremony in the rain. Mawn said he was born the same year as Mandracchia and rode the same school bus with Stymus and Bowen.

“This is long overdue,” Mawn said about the prominent display for the Holley soldiers.

Before the marker dedication, there was a Memorial Day service in the American Legion Post in Holley. Scott Galliford, the post commander, welcomes about 125 inside the hall for the service.

He noted the Legion post is named for Jewell Buckman, the first soldier from Holley to be killed in World War I about a century ago. Buckman’s life was cut short on June 7th, 1918, fifty miles northeast of Paris, at the Battle of Belleau Wood. He was 26 and a member of the Marine Corps.

Ron Ayrault, the Legion’s chaplain, shared the names of local veterans who passed away since last Memorial Day: Robert Stirk, Army; Alfred Pulcino III, Air Force; Paul Wright, Army; James Miller, Navy; James B. Coats, Navy; Garland Miller, Army; Robert Pinson, Army; Frank Mandigo, Air Force; Noel Zicari, Air Force; Neil Passarell, Army; Wayne Robinson, Navy; and Jerome “Jeff” Machamer, Army.

Kevin Foley, a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, received a Purple Heart and two Distinguished Flying Cross medals after being shot down and being determined to help his fellow soldiers.

He spoke to about 125 people inside the Legion hall. The service moved indoors because of the rain.

Mark James Morreall reads a poem he wrote, “The Cost of Freedom.”

Some of the poem’s lines include:

“He gave his life at Little Round Top,

At Valley Forge and Normandy,

In Flanders Fields and Iwo Jima,

At Pork Chop Hill and in Quang Tri.

“Sometimes we take this life for granted,

Do we forget the price they paid?

They say the freedom wasn’t free my friend,

It’s been paid for by the brave!”

Joyce Foley, a retired teacher and Kevin Foley’s wife, said she attended church with Ron Sisson, one of the nine from Holley killed in Vietnam. That United Methodist Church was in the Public Square and still stands, although it’s now used for apartments.

“He made everyone feel special,” Foley said about Sisson. “He had a smile that lit up a room.”

She recalled being on her senior trip with her classmates. They went to Gettysburg. They were having a great time, when news came that Gary Stymus had been killed. Two of his family members were on the senior trip.

She said the historical marker is ideally located next to the old high school.

“How fitting that they will be honored in front of the high school where they lived, loved, laughed and learned,” Foley said.

Foley said many of the Vietnam vets who came home suffered with missing limbs, PTSD, brain injuries, exposure to Agent Orange and other hardships.

She said the vets served “for love of family, for love of God and for love of country. It was their sense of duty.”

Before the service and rain these scouts stand in front of a 5-ton military dump truck from 1991. The truck is now used by Howard Farms. Todd Klatt brought it from the farm for its first parade. Klatt is a mechanic in the National Guard.

Mark Morreall rides his motorcycle in the parade followed by several fire trucks.

Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts ride in the parade to Hillside Cemetery. Scouts and veterans laid wreaths at Hillside and Holy Cross Cemetery. The Scouts are in Pack 62, and Troops 62 and 59.

Photo courtesy of Erin Anheier: Alvin Anheier, 97, of Brockport. sits in the passenger seat of his 1928 Ford Model AA. Anheier, a World War II veteran, wanted to be at the parade. Ross Sceusa is driving, Sandy Moy is in the second row seat and Kevin Bedard and Wally Sanford are in the top back seats.