CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – It was a simple enough display: door-like panels were opened in a zigzag accordion fashion with each panel displaying a series of placards that contained a photo of an area war vet and his biography.
Simple, but it said a lot.
Sen. Greg Ball (R, C – Patterson) unveiled his traveling Veterans’ Wall of Fame Thursday night at John Jay Middle School in Cross River. The wall pays tribute to the 27 veterans from throughout the Hudson Valley who were honored at a Veterans’ Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony back in November. Each city, town and village within the senator’s district was asked to nominate a veteran.
“The veterans whose faces grace this wall were nominated by their communities, hand-picked because they chose a path of courage, honor, integrity and bravery,” Ball said during a ribbon cutting ceremony. “It is a path that helped shape America as we know it, protecting our way of life and liberty.”
The Wall of Fame will remain in the main corridor of the school for a week before it moves on to other area schools. John Jay Middle School Principal Richard Leprine said the wall, which was placed in the school’s main corridor, provides a great opportunity for students to learn about local veterans who served the country.
“We are honored to have this here,” Leprine said. “This is a busy corridor and all our students will get to see it. It’s very important for our students to know about these heroes. I think it will be a great learning experience for our kids to be able to view this wall. What’s special about it is that many of these veterans are from our school district or neighboring towns.”
Some of those veterans included Corp. Herbert Geller, a WW II vet from North Salem, Cpt. Eric Jones, a Pound Ridge native who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan, and retired Private First Class Robert Joseph Williams of Lewisboro. Williams was unable to attend the ceremony due to an illness. Former Lewisboro Town Supervisor Charlie Duffy accepted a proclamation on his behalf, which deemed Jan. 12 “Robert Williams Day.”
A successful small business owner and floor maintenance contractor, Williams was a machine gunner in the Army during WW II. In addition to the Good Conduct Medal, he earned Campaign Ribbons for Sicily, Italy, Corsica, Southern France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Southern Germany, plus a Spearhead for the first wave of the Invasion of Sicily.
Williams currently sits on the executive board of the Lewisboro Senior Adults, runs its Fishing Derby, and participates at Inter-Generational Day for the Elementary Schools twice a year. Each year, he lectures at John Jay Middle School, discussing the Civil War, World War I, and World War II with the students.
“It’s fitting that [the Wall of Fame] is here in Lewisboro, especially this school,” said Lewisboro Deputy Supervisor Peter DeLucia. “There’s synergy with Bob [Williams] being named because he’s worked with the kids here. It’s great that [Sen. Ball] has done this and we are honored to have it here. It shows what great men have done to shape our country.”
Eugene Perotta, a Vietnam veteran and one of the Wall of Fame honorees as well as president of Sen. Ball’s Veterans Advisory Council, said this is the best way to teach the community about the importance of our veterans.
“What happens to Veterans such as myself is that they are totally forgotten. That should never happen,” Perotta said. “Every man, woman and child that come in contact with that Veterans’ Wall of Fame should know that there was a sacrifice made so that they can keep their normal, everyday life.”
The next stop for the Vets’ Wall of Fame will be Yorktown High School on Jan. 17. Other stops include:
Haldane High School, Feb. 16-21
Hendrick on Hudson High School, Feb. 28-March 8
Putnam Valley High School, March 8-16
Mahopac High School, March 16-23
Webutuck High School, March 23-April 3
“In a day and age when we have so many false idols, I thank you for letting this into your school,” Ball told Principal Leprine. “We forget about these vets, but they have incredible stories.”