AMSTERDAM — After learning about World War II in school, Gabe Gennett was filled with pride after learning that his great grandfather, Ted Pawlik, served in the U.S. Navy during the pivotal time in global history.
“It’s cool that there is someone in my family that was representing the country,” said Gabe, a seventh grader at Lynch Middle School, on Friday.
Gabe shared the story of his great grandfather’s decorated service on the destroyer USS David W. Taylor during Amsterdam’s annual Veterans Day service at West End Memorial Park after the parade on Guy Park Avenue. Both were organized by American Legion Post 701 with support from Amsterdam’s Tourism, Recreation and Marketing Department.
“It just feels right to talk about it,” Gabe said. “And don’t forget about it.”
Handing down stories of Pawlik and his service to the family’s youngest generation was important to Gabe’s mother, Marisha Gennett.
“We’ve talked about what kind of person he was and stories that I remember from my childhood. He was a big personality,” Marisha said of Pawlik, her grandfather. “I wanted them to know how important it was to me as a child and how important it will always be.”
Pawlik served in the Navy from October 1942 until he was honorably discharged in December 1945. After leaving the armed forces, Pawlik later took on the duty of public service as a former Amsterdam supervisor and through his involvement in a variety of local organizations.
Although he died in 1988, Pawlik’s story lives on and is fondly remembered by Gabe.
“I never had the chance to meet my great grandfather, but I’m still mighty proud of all he did and to be his great grandson,” Gabe said.
Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti similarly recounted the pride he felt leading the Veterans Day parade three years ago joined by his then 99-year-old father-in-law, Louis Rossi. The veteran Marine had flown 49 bombing missions in the Pacific during WWII.
“My father in law had beat the odds, he made it back to Amsterdam after surviving one of the most dangerous fighting assignments,” Cinquanti said.
While Rossi was one of the few to return home unscathed, Cinquanti said his father-in-law encountered situations during his missions when he thought he was about to lose his life.
“But when I asked him 60 years later after he flew his last mission if he had to do it all over again, would he fly in that bomber? His answer was immediate and it was definite, ‘I’d do it all over in a minute,’” Cinquanti said.
That spirit of sacrifice is undoubtedly shared among veterans and should be honored, Cinquanti said.
“That’s why we’re here today,” Cinquanti said. “The men and women who put on a uniform of the United States military do so because they love this country.
“And they were willing to dedicate large portions of the primes of their lives to serving it, protecting it and, if necessary, fighting for it and dying for it, so that the rest of us can enjoy the freedoms and the privileges that have defined this great country.”
Among the many events held in the city, Montgomery County District Attorney Lorraine Diamond admitted the Veterans Day parade and service are “nearest and dearest” to her heart.
“There are so many valuable veterans that we should be honoring on a day like today. I thank all the veterans for their service to this great country,” said Diamond, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and judge advocate for American Legion Post 701.
The parade and service were fitting tributes to the commitment and sacrifice of the nation’s service members past and present that should always be remembered and celebrated, said state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam.
“Today is our commitment to never forget them,” Santabarbara said. “We can never say it enough, for their service in war and in peace, thank you to our veterans.”
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.