Remembering the Fallen Soldiers From CNY Throughout History

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Memorial Day is a day to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives fighting for the freedoms we enjoy today. “It’s important that we honor all of these folks who served and particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Gregg Tripoli, the executive director of the Onondaga Historical Association. There are so many servicemen from Central New York who have been recognized nationally for their heroic actions in combat and Tripoli shared a few of their stories.

The very first casualty of the Civil War was a Central New York man, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth. He was in Alexandria, Virginia and saw a confederate flag flying from the Marshall Inn hotel. He found his way to the roof of the hotel and took down the flag. As he walked down the stairs of the hotel he was met by the hotel’s proprietor, James Jackson, who was also a confederate soldier. Jackson shot Ellsworth. Ellsworth was the first union officer to die in the Civil War. Jackson was shot by Ellsworth’s body guard and become the first confederate casualty of the Civil War.

John Kiggins was a soldier in the Civil War who received a Medal of Honor. Kiggins was on Lookout Mountain as part of the 149th NY Infantry when he realized they were being attacked by friendly fire. He went up the mountain to wave the Union flag to signal to the other troops that they were on the same side. By doing so, he saved many lives but also drew Confederate attention to himself.

Another brave serviceman whose heroism was honored was Corporal Homer Wheaton. He was the first from Onondaga County to die in World War I. He and his brigade were in a bunker in France on February 27, 1918. The troops were facing heavy German bombardment. Wheaton was handing out grenades when one soldier dropped his grenade and the pin came out. Wheaton jumped on the grenade and saved eight of his comrades that day. Corporal Homer Wheaton was posthumously awarded France’s prestigious Croix de Guerre and the very first Distinguished Service Cross in American history, which is the second highest honor one can receive.

Three World War II nurses from Central New York were posthumously awarded the American Red Cross star, Lt. Rita Erard, Lt. Agnus Hallinan and Lt. Catherine McCarthy.

Frank Lillyman was a Central New Yorker and the first American to land on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day Invasion. Another man who was also a part of the invasion, PFC. George Simmons was injured during battle and later died from his injuries. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

In Vietnam Captain Edward Krukowski was the first casualty from Central New York. He died in June 1965. By the end of the war 145 other local residents had lost their lives as well.

In addition to the men and women in Central New York’s history, there are monuments in our city dedicated as well. One of those monuments is The Rock of Marne in Billings Park in downtown Syracuse. The monument memorialized the men from the 38th Infantry Regiment who lost their lives in the Second Battle of the Marne in France. The battle was a turning point in World War I. The Germans were attacking on the offensive and Americans were flanked on 3 sides but held their ground, fighting off the Germans. The Regime was established in Syracuse.

The Onondaga Historical Association has a Military History Museum located inside the Oncenter War Memorial inside Memorial Hall. There are medals on display and amazing stories from all the conflicts in history.

You can also visit the Onondaga Historical Association museum located at 321 Montgomery Street in Syracuse or you can visit CNYHistory.org.

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