I write occasional pieces on my Facebook page. Sometimes there are serious, other times they are whimsical. I also write occasionally on subjects pertinent to my still closely-knit hometown of Canastota, New York.

MEMORIAL DAY (5.21.16)

As the Vietnam War was coming to a close, I gradually came to a commitment I maintained for many years. First, I went to the cemetery on Memorial Day, no matter where I was on that particular day. The parades, especially in cities, bothered me. They did not seem about the honored dead as the tanks, guns, and even plane or two rolled by. It seemed more about war than mourning.

Memorial Day.pngI would clean up the gravesites that had flags in front of them. Sometimes, from earlier wars, the tombstone was fallen or broken. I was surprised at how few people there were in the cemetery on Memorial Day. Often I was alone. The men and women who had died seemed lonesome on the day specially set aside for them.

There was a second thing I committed to doing, and it started while I was at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. Whenever I heard a student’s father, uncle, brother or other close relative had been in Vietnam, I’d invite them to my office. We’d talk about their academics and a little about Vietnam. Finally, I would tell them that if they needed a “father” while in college, I would be glad to help, that they could write, call, or stop by to see me anytime.

There are so many memories of that experience. One time I found out a student’s father had been in Vietnam. Like always, I invited her to my office. She had a shriveled arm. I asked her about it.

“Agent Orange,” came her reply.

Another time I reprimanded students in class for giggling and not paying attention when a young woman was making a presentation about her father, a soldier in Vietnam. Afterward, I pulled her aside, and she said he never talked about the War. She also said it made him feel so distant at times.

I did something I seldom ever do. I wrote her father a letter telling him how much his daughter loved him. I said him I had a daughter, too, and that even though we had been on opposite sides of the war, I hoped someday his daughter and mine would be friends in a world at peace.
I wasn’t sure how he would react. Would he be indifferent? Angry? I sent the letter off anyway.

At graduation ceremonies a few weeks later, I saw his daughter pointing in my direction. He began to walk toward me, and so I started to walk toward him. As we reached each other, he held out his arms. I hugged him back.

“I love you, brother,” he said.

“Welcome home,” I told him.

As the year turned into years, there were fewer and fewer children of those who had fought in Vietnam. And then one Memorial Day, I don’t remember when or why, but I stopped going to the cemetery.

That changed half-dozen or so years ago. Some transfer students were in my office at UNC Wilmington. One young man didn’t need to be there, but for some reason, he came anyway. He was the last to shake hands with me. He looked and talked like maybe he was from Brooklyn, and I smiled a little. As I shook his hand, it felt rubbery and cold. He watched my eyes when I looked up. I closed the door.

He had been in convoy on the way to Baghdad when he was hit. His right arm was blown off.

I asked him how his heart was doing.

In that tough street-kid style, he said, “I’m okay.”

I told him I wanted to see him when classes started–even though he already had a faculty advisor. He promised me he would, but I never saw him again. He left school.

After that, I started going to the cemetery again on Memorial Day. I thought maybe I was motivated by the travesty we’ve made of this sacred day, with a glance toward those who died, and then a fun-filled barbecue or hitting those Memorial Day shopping sales. The was rain falling warmly and softly as I walked in the cemetery again. It was then I realized then that my true motivation was that the wars we were fighting had finally come home to me.

I still worked on the gravesites in need of care. And this time on Memorial Day I began to read the names of those honored dead. I stopped at each site that had flags in front of markers and tombstones. I also thanked each of them out loud for what they had done. And often I wondered what they would say if they could speak with one voice. Would they want me to say hello to their mother, or their best girl? Their kid? Or would they say how much they missed fishing with their Dad? I wondered if they would caution us about going to war, to be careful and exhaust all other possibilities first. That among the future dead might be a great poet, or teacher, or maybe even a Jeter-like shortstop.

I have mourned how long it has taken me to feel the pain of the wars we are in. And I am more “grandfather” than “father” to my students now. I should be wiser, but am not. All I can offer them is my compassion and the promise that they will be my special children again.

God bless the Irish today and every day! (3.17.17)

This is my last semester of university teaching after 45 years.

In one of my classes this semester I have a student from Ireland named Ian. He brings me such joy with his grin and quips. I also have a young woman of Irish descent. One day I was talking about “Riverdance” in class. I was attempting to explain that while we enjoy the dance as entertainment if you carefully watch it performed, you’d find it is an angry Irishdance. The arms of the dancer don’t move; the feet and legs behave with the same fierce wildness of a horse. When the English invaded, they wanted to take away the Irish language and gestures. The dance is the Irish response. I didn’t think the students understood, and it must have shown. The Irish woman in my class just stood up and danced without music, embarrassment, and in great form.

I wasn’t going to meet with them on St. Patrick’s Day, but I opened class with a JibJab I had prepared. I took Ian and the young woman’s picture from the class list and put it on a big screen. I cranked up the music up. Click here to watch: JibJab Video.

When it was over, the students cheered. I thought Ian was going to cry. And the young woman beamed from ear to ear. They cheered and groaned at the same time when I told them that St. Patrick’s name was Pasquale, and his father was Roman.

I don’t know if it was from that, but a breakthrough occurred mid-way through the class. The students came alive, as they never had before. They challenged me openly and without raising a single hand! They began to challenge each other vigorously but without any hint of meanness. A young woman who had not spoken in class before began to speak, and I wanted to stand and applaud that alone. But I just watched and grinned and said to myself, “How I love these kids and will miss them so.”

I love the Irish. Always have. I sometimes think they are the joy God put in the world for the ungrateful rest of us. Their happiness isn’t from comfortable lives or lives without sorrow. They suffered through famine, imposed on them, and one million died. A million more immigrated to the United States in what were called “coffin ships.” So many were sick with famine; it was said the sharks followed these ships because so many of the dead would be buried at sea. The Irish became some of the world’s most renowned poets and writers. Though an attempt was made to take their language from them, the Irish produced more Nobel Prize winners in Literature than their English colonizers. They are a creative and stubborn people.

The Irish know sorrow and so their merriment isn’t superficial or without depth. I remember one time reading that after President John Kennedy died, his brother Robert was traveling by plane to Ireland to look upon his family’s ancestry. Robert had a tough time with his brother’s assassination. He brooded every November, began reading Albert Camus and said his favorite poet was Aeschylus.

A month before he was assassinated, he was asked how he would like to be remembered–what he would like the last line in his obituary to say. RFK answered, “Something about what Camus said, that this is a world in which children suffer, and all we can do is lessen the number of suffering children.”

Robert Kennedy would quote the Greek poet Aeschylus the night Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. It’s one of my favorite poems, too, and reads: “And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

The Lord Mayor of Dublin was on the plane taking Bobby Kennedy to Ireland. Noting how sad and depressed the President’s brother looked, the Lord Mayor told him, “Oh Bobby what’s the use of being Irish if you don’t know the world is going to break your heart.”

So, Ralph Shortell, Dennis O’Brien, and Mary Cronin if you ever see this–for classmates at Colgate and colleagues over the years–all of whom are Irish: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for what you give to the world by just being in it.

Happy Birthday, Gary Hall (10.31.13)

Gary Hall
Gary Hall

One of Gary’s beloved siblings, Jackie Hall Harrell, told me that indeed today is Gary’s birthday. So, my friends, indulge me a bit more. Gary was worth all the stars in the heavens–though that kind of praise would irritate him.

When our friend and teammate Bobby Masucci died, Gary was beside himself with grief. I went into surgery at the same time, and Gary often called because he was afraid I would give up. Gary’s friends mattered to him.

But Gary was also a bit of mayhem. I was there when he called his sisters on Sunday mornings expressing his great love for them by trying to get them riled up about one thing or another. He’d do the same with me. He usually called on Sunday morning, and you knew he was savoring his opening comment because he would start off sweet, with syrupy sweetness. Then it would come: “Louis, I’ve been wanting to tell you over the years that I think I should have been the one playing quarterback.” Or, another good one, “My dog wants to know why you don’t like him.” (He had a St. Bernard, famous for drooling and leaving hair on every conceivable space.)

I happened to be in New York City to present a paper at a conference. Gary listened to it and offered his incisive advice. He was smart, very smart. That night, I took him to a nice restaurant. It was his birthday. The last I would see him. We talked about old times, laughed about some of our experiences, and then toasted our glasses of wine to Canastota–and wondered what would happen if others of status ever found out about us being on the mucklands, or the mischief that remained in the two of us.

Toward the end, he began to talk about God more, and religion. He talked about both of us taking a road trip to New Mexico (The state’s license plate reads: “The Land of Enchantment”).

The morning before his death he wrote me:

The thing I miss about our youth is the innocence of laughter! The discovery of a new world! And the ability to leave the house and just run to wherever you wanted to go…or ride a bike.

I miss that there was always someone older to talk to.

I miss hot August days that always seem to bring on thunderstorms.

I miss your Mom’s macaroni salad.

And then he was gone.

I told my other halfback, another enduring friend whom I trust and admire just like Gary, how hard it was–how very hard working to work on the documentary each morning, seeing familiar faces now gone, remembering a time that was more storybook than anything. And Donnie Ackerman wrote back immediately, telling that with the documentary I was giving Gary, Bobby, Scotch, and so many others life again.

“Oh Captain, My Captain” (April 12, 2015)

Nick Fusillo
Nick Fusillo

He was one of us, a Canastota kid. And like Carmen and Billy, one of the good guys.

He was one of the finest athletes to come out of Canastota, and I know for a fact that Notre Dame was very interested in him while he was only a sophomore. He had the size, athleticism, and fearlessness to be a standout anywhere. For Canastota, he was the starting middle linebacker and fullback in his sophomore and junior years. Then he got a brain injury on the playing field, and it was nip and tuck for months whether he would live or die. Father Madden was at the game and said he’d never forget the look of horror on his mother’s face.

The shock of what had happened to him affected us all. We used to say the rosary during lunchtime in one of those big second-floor study halls. It was usually filled. The town had a benefit basketball game for him to help defer the medical costs. Because of him, insurance became a requirement for athletes. Because he was family, my father and I would visit him at night, and stay all night, while he was in the hospital. The aunts would remain with him during the day.

He would groan all night long. My dad and I would hold his hand. I remember crying. The only thing he could eat were oranges, and my dad and I would peel them for him. At Christmas, for a few years now, I’d send him Florida oranges. This past Christmas he wrote me, “I got the oranges, and they’re great, but you haven’t peeled them for me in a long time!”

Loved his humor. When I was about to interview him for the Going Home documentary he joked, “Louie, what’s my best side?” As he was turning his head side to side with a grin, he noticed the twinkle in my eyes and the smile on my face. In typical “Canastota humor,” I said, “I don’t think there is a good side, Nicky.”

We laughed a lot for a long while and then that dreaded cancer struck, suddenly and without warning. The doctors would do tests, and there would be experimental therapies, and hope was touted, but it all seemed unreal to us, especially his beautiful and smart wife Janet. She was an operating room nurse and loved this guy who had stayed in shape, knew the meaning of fun, and could banter with the best of them. Janet stayed continuously with him as hope drained from the sky.

Nicky badly wanted to attend the premiere of Going Home in Canastota. I told him to wear sunglasses because he would become famous after the screening. But he was too sick to go. I visited before the premiere, and with Janet and my daughter Megan around us, I gave him a plaque, making him the honorary captain of our 1961 championship football team. His eyes brimmed with tears and he whispered in my ear, as we embraced, “This means a lot to me.”

Talking to him on the phone was hard. I had my maladies, but each time we spoke, his voice sounded weaker and weaker. The very last time I reminded him that he was the captain of our team. I could hear him softly laugh, “Yes,” he said. “Captain.” They would be the last words I would ever hear from him. I had a football sent to him while he was still in the ICU, and just before he died.

I can’t make it back for the funeral, but do, please God, go for me.

Donnie Ackerman (January 28, 2016)

From the looks of the team picture, freshman football, he was smaller than both Louie Zupan and me. And like Louie, some of the guys in “the big city” of Canastota thought both Donnie Ackerman and Louie didn’t quite fit. Donnie worked and lived on a farm on route 31; Louie was from Clockville. I remember Louie standing up for Donnie when three bigger guys were picking on him. (Sometimes I think that we should equip the whole Zupan family, grandfather to grandsons, and send them over to fight the Taliban, Isis, and that bunch. It might take them all of two days).

Football Team
Canastota Freshman Football Team, 1957. Ackerman is in the first row left, jersey number 38

Donnie was quiet, but you could tell he was a good guy. He smiled, and in that smile, you could see he enjoyed life–his own and life around him. But he didn’t grow much, and played on the freshman team as a sophomore, thanks to Bob Beale’s encouragement. His junior year he sprained his ankle badly and could not compete. He was on the sideline and using crutches.

Sometimes during lunch, when it was warm, Donnie and his posse of Gilbert, George and a few others would go out to the baseball diamond and throw a ball around. You could tell he loved sports. While the rest of us were eating, joking and flirting, Donnie was drawn to the playing field with a love rarely seen.

Sometimes I think that if Donnie had been well his junior year what a team we would have had. The sensational Gary Hall at one halfback position and Donnie at the other. And if powerful middle linebacker and fullback Nick Fusillo hadn’t gotten injured, our team would have been complete. We only lost one game our junior year, and Donnie and Nicky would not have allowed that to happen.

Then comes our senior year and Donnie is healthy and ready. IN JUST ONE YEAR OF VARSITY FOOTBALL, Donnie became the number one scorer in our highly competitive league, the most valuable player on our team–and for the entire league. Then he was selected as a high school All American in football and basketball. And because of him, and our team of close friends, we won the league championship.

As the team’s quarterback, I remember Donnie never bragged, never put anyone down, and never hogged the ball no matter the sport. In fact, so quiet was he about his extraordinary successes, that I didn’t know of some of them until I went back to do the film “Going Home.” He was always the team player.

We didn’t see each other much over the years. I had moved away, but that didn’t stop Donnie from being a star of a different sort. He and Ed Brophy, along with “Pee Wee” Sgroi traveled the country in sleeping bags and on candy bars trying to make the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) a reality. Both guys nurtured IBHOF’s development: Donnie serving as its president, Ed as its executive director. The extraordinary success of IBHOF gave Canastota renewed life, and like Carmen Basilio put us on the map again. Then Donnie became a well-respected boxing judge. And it was either Ronnie Farfaglia or Andy Pino who said he was also the best-known radio voice of sports in Central New York.

We always had fun over the years–usually at Donnie’s expense! Miss Furfaro read a letter in class our senior year that was supposedly from Syracuse Coach Ben Schwartzwalder. The coach promised to give Donnie a full scholarship, two cars, and a free lifetime pass to the Genesee Brewery. Donnie, red-faced, looked over at me and we both began to laugh. I attended a televised fight at the Turning Stone Casino where Donnie was a judge. As we shook hands, I slipped him a twenty-dollar bill, making it look like I was bribing him.

When I saw him after many years, he confided, “Although we haven’t been physically close, I feel we’ve always been close.” That must have resonated in me because, at the screening of the film, I spontaneously said, after his warm and gracious introduction, that I hadn’t realized it until that very moment but the time we spent together on the football field cemented our friendship for all time. And there was one moment in particular that I finally “saw”–after fifty years.

We were playing a tough Oneida team, and it was our one obstacle to winning the league championship. We were all friends, on both sides of the ball, but we competed thoroughly and in a sportsmanlike fashion. I think the game was tied and we were on Oneida’s thirty-five-yard line. It was fourth down, and I called a pass play. I took the snap, scrambled around, and threw the ball as far as I could to the right side of the goalpost. Oneida was big, and I couldn’t see Donnie but he was supposed to be there, and I just knew he would out jump and outfight anybody for the ball. The cheering from our side of the field told me it was a touchdown. It was the one that sealed the champions. I guess you might call that trust. Faith even.

The bond we formed that Saturday afternoon in the long ago endures. I asked Donnie the other day if he would co-officiate at my funeral if I passed before him. He said he would be honored, but he hoped that it would be a long, long time coming.

When you’re old, you need old friends. They know you as nobody else does. And it must be terrible to die and not be understood by anyone. Without many words, he and I know we have that with each other.

Happy Birthday, old buddy. I am so very grateful for having you in my life. And I know I speak for many, many others. Watch Here.

Remembering Father Madden (August 25, 2016)

Rev. John Madden
Rev. John Madden

He told me the last time I saw him that he was not going to renew a medical procedure; that he had prayed about it and felt it was the right thing to do. It meant he would die. I wrote him that I would really miss him. And now he is gone, and I miss him. I miss knowing he is still in this world.

Father John R. Madden came into our Canastota lives sometime when we were in junior high school. He was tall, strong, athletic and handsome. He was articulate and could be very firm. I was 70 when I interviewed him and still felt intimidated. Like he could see into my soul and knew things I didn’t know.

There were a plethora of altar boys, and I was one of them. I liked serving early Mass with him and went every morning until sometime in high school. The smell of burning candles, John Bartholomew at the organ, and the Latin Mass made me feel the mysterious presence of God.

At eleven o’clock mass he’d bless the congregation and save a particularly intense rain of holy water for the guys standing in the back. They were always late for Mass. I remember one time on a Sunday when the choir was giving a great aria of some sort. Father Madden nodded to the side where I was serving as an altar boy and whispered, before singing, “Watch this Louie.” And then he sang powerfully and beautifully.

It was hard going to him for confession because he would start with, “Hello Louie.” Very sobering. Father went to Notre Dame and loved that university. One afternoon I went to confession, and the church was empty. But I could hear something. I got to the confessional and Father said, “Louie, can you wait for a few minutes.” He was listening to a Notre Dame game on a small transistor radio. Notre Dame won. But I’ve always wondered what I would have received for penance if the Fighting Irish lost!

Father Madden went to every sporting event we were involved in at the time. He reached out to Gary Hall and was way ahead of his time concerning the struggle against racism. He walked alongside the stretcher when Nick Fusillo was carried off the field. He prayed for Nick at Mass and was at his bedside nights at the hospital. He brought Catholic and Protestant kids together for Mass on Saturday mornings before a game. This joining together was unheard of at the time.

Father tried to get my generation to experience the larger world. He had a pilot’s license and took Donnie Ackerman, who was a Protestant, to see Springfield College. He took Bobby Masucci and me to King’s College in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. God knows how many others he took the time and interest to better their lives.

I am glad I had the opportunity to interview him for my documentary Going Home. I remember him telling me that when the onion farms were bountiful, the farmers would fill a tractor trailer with fifty-pound onion bags and donate its sale to St. Agatha’s. When the onion fields became less and less prosperous, he said he’d go out of the rectory on a Sunday morning in the fall, and there would be a mound of fifty-pound bags of onions. “How many onions could we eat, Louie?” he joked.

Gary Hall was on crutches, and so I drove. We wanted to attend Father Madden’s 50th anniversary as a priest. Father spotted us as we got out of the car and greeted us with a wide grin. His Hamilton church was packed to overflowing that morning, and Gary and I were fortunate to get a seat. When the church quieted, and he waited patiently for that to happen, he shouted jubilantly, “Go Irish!”

Gary and I attended the reception for him after Mass. We listened as some woman detailed Father’s extraordinary career as a priest, and then a Monsignor. When she told of Father’s first assignment, that being Canastota, she remarked, “And then Father Madden went to the land of the little people.” Gary burst out laughing, and the three hundred or so people in attendance looked over in our direction. I pointed at him that he was the one who laughed. Gary never forgot that line and would just suddenly burst out laughing from time to time and say, “The land of the little people.”

The last time I saw Father Madden I asked him if he would bless me. There was a deep, wonderful comfort in that, probably because it came from a man I respected, admired and yes loved.

Like Carmen Basilio, Father Madden was one of those people who should have lived forever. But come to think of it, there were so many of his generation, right here in Canastota, who should have been allowed to stay in the world.

I don’t think we ever measured up to them in their unselfish commitment to us. They

St. Agatha
St. Agatha’s Catholic Church, Canastota, NY

never once even asked for a thank you. Oh, how grateful I am for Miss Furfaro, Miss Daniels, Charlie Davis, Miss Abramson, Mike Tornatore, Pinky, Bill Sharpe, Bob Beale, Burghie and so many others including our mothers and fathers. The world would be a better place if they were still in it.

Yes, rest in peace our dear Father John. And please pray for us.

…Please add those to whom you are grateful below and pay it forward.

Remembrances of My Father (6.14.17)

He was a powerful looking man. I remember his large hands and his thick, strong fingers. He told me once, not to brag, that he put two bushels of onions together and lifted the crates. He said only “old man Strano” was known to have done that. The only time he ever hit anybody, he said, was in school. Some kid called him a “wop,” and he smacked the kid and got expelled. He liked school but said he kept being held back a grade. He would have to miss school in the spring to plant onions, and in the fall he left to harvest them. He said he was too big for the desk and it embarrassed him to remain in school.

Grandpa ButtinoHe had some great one-liners. I asked him once how I could tell I was in love. He said, “You won’t have to ask me.” I was in my forties and told him I was thinking about getting married. I asked him what he thought. He replied, “I think you should go down the aisle while you still can without help.” We would put up the snow fence every year and had the same joking routine when we did so. He’d hold the metal stake, and I would stand on a wooden box with a sledgehammer. When we were ready, he’d always say, “When I nod my head you hit it.” He’d pause, and I’d give the same response, “Your head or the stake?” I told him I wanted to be a professor and he wanted to know what a professor did. “Well, Dad, ” I said, “They’re going to pay me to read books and talk about them.” He waited and then told me, “Take me with you when you go, will you?” (Why does his humor feel so sad to me now?)

He could be profound, and some of his insights have guided me over the years. He didn’t understand the graduation speaker at Colgate and told me that he didn’t think he could teach me anything anymore. My heart sank. I told him I learned more from him than any college professor. And then he said something that became a religious commandment in my life. He said, “Whatever you do, Louie. Don’t forget how to talk to me.” I don’t think I ever did. But if I forget something, I’m sorry Pa.

I went fishing with him a lot on that temperamental Oneida Lake. One time a fierce winter wind picked up when we were ice fishing. I was a boy, and he yelled for me to drop everything and to run to him. He held my hand. You couldn’t see because of the biting, harsh snow. We couldn’t tell if we were walking toward shore, or out into the middle of the lake. But he never let go of my hand, even when I stumbled, or was too tired to walk anymore. Then he carried me. We fell together on the bank of the lake.

Luigi Butino
My father’s father, Luigi Buttino

My father and I were fishing with his beloved brother Milton, in my uncle’s boat. Suddenly a Spring storm whipped up. The waves started to crash over us, and the motor stalled. My father put me in the center of the boat, and we all said the “Our Father” over and over again. The boat eventually drifted to shore. We had to walk a while to reach the car. My uncle took out a pint of whiskey and poured each of us a shot. I think I spilled most of mine; I was still shaking so. Maybe that was a turning point for me. Innocence was left behind. I had learned the fragility of life.

I was with him the night before he died. I held on to his once large hand, just as I had in the past. I asked him if he was afraid and he said no. I asked him to look after my daughter when he got over to the other side. He nodded and said, “Of course.”I think we both fell asleep, but then I was awakened. He was talking to somebody. “What is it, Pa?” I asked. He said it was nothing and drifted off to sleep. But then, robustly, I heard him say, “Yes! Yes!”

I asked whom he was talking to and he didn’t answer. I waited, and then he said, just above a whisper, that it was his mother, she was calling and waving for him to come. And so was his brother Milt. He was asking permission to die, and in the hardest words I have ever spoken I told him it was all right, that he could go with them.

After the wake, I’ll never forget what Vito Fusillo said of my father. A stand-up guy himself, Vito said: “If Tony Buttino didn’t like you, then there was something wrong with you.”
When my father died some of the sweetness went out of the world, never to return.

Mike Pavone (November 28, 2017)
“The Wounded Come Home”

Mike Pavone
Mike Pavone with his wife, Jane

Mike Pavone was my student at Canastota High School. I took him to the recruiting office in Syracuse where he was to enlist in the Marine Corps. I was opposed to the Vietnam War but never opposed to Michael or his choice. It started off very funny. The recruiting officer was going around the room asking if some of the potential enlistees had ever gotten into trouble. Some pretty serious and scary things were confessed. Then it came to Michael, and he wanted to say something too, so he admitted to breaking some windows. That sent Gary Ramsdell and Sam Sgroi running from the room! They were Michael’s friends and also my students.

It wasn’t so funny last June when I took Michael with me to Colgate University for a special screening of my film on the Vietnam War (Broken Brotherhood: Vietnam and the Boys from Colgate). Other Vietnam Vets were there, and they quickly accepted Michael. Especially Jerry Murphy, my college class, a gutsy small guy who flew helicopter missions during the War.

The number of Colgate guys who served surprised Michael. His impression was that most had avoided the war, when in fact Colgate had the highest number of enlistees of any comparable school. Jerry Murphy, Donnie and Kathy Ackerman and I went after the screening, to dinner at the Colgate Inn. Michael had us in stitches but I sometimes looked over, and I could tell there was an ache in him. I suspect it was that place called Vietnam.

This past Veteran’s Day I was struck by the number of Canastota boys who were part of a war also shared by my Colgate classmates. And then I remembered what a Marine had told me once, about a decade ago. I was doing a film on a Marine who had been shot badly in Iraq. I interviewed some of his buddies, and one guy seemed to be amputated at the hips. This is going to sound cruel, but I do not mean it to be. I want you to understand. The young guy couldn’t get comfortable and kept flipping over this way and that like a fish on shore. As I was leaving, I shook his hand and thanked him for his time, and his service. He responded quickly, “Don’t thank me, thank the Vietnam Vet.”

The documentary that follows, The Wounded Come Home, is one of the most meaningful to me. It’s saying, “Thank the Vietnam Vet.” So I’m sharing it with others on Facebook, and the two places devoted to Canastota memories, and also my brothers at Colgate. The film is dedicated to Vietnam veterans everywhere.

My classmate Robert Aberlin noticed some years ago that there was no plaque to the guys from Colgate who died as a result of the Vietnam War. He saw to it that a plaque was put up. I’d like to know if a similar plaque is in Canastota High School? If not, I’d like to see one put up and will pledge the first monies to see its installation.

It’s been way too long that the Vets from my hometown, Colgate, and everywhere, haven’t been thoroughly welcomed home or remembered. Here’s to all the Mike Pavone’s of America–from those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.