SCHENECTADY -- Coast Guard veteran Julius Boreali proudly wore his “Normandy” hat as a smile lit up his face Tuesday.
Boreali, a 96-year-old former Coast Guard petty officer who served from 1942-46, received a Battle Star at the Invasion of Normandy and another while in the Mediterranean Sea, where he was under enemy bombardment for four hours.
The Schenectady resident just marked the 75th anniversary of World War II’s D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history, on June 6. And on Tuesday, the vet got a first look at a banner honoring his service -- a banner that he’ll be staring at as it rises above the streets of Schenectady in the coming days.
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The Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation (DSIC) held an official ceremony to unveil street banners honoring 51 Schenectady County veterans and active duty service members as part of its 2019 Hometown Heroes Banner Program.
Boreali was just one of many veterans the city honored in the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation’s fifth annual Hometown Heroes banner unveiling on Tuesday.
“Oh, it’s fantastic,” Boreali said. “It’s beautiful. And the way they show their appreciation is beyond anything I can say.”
The DSIC unveiled the street banners honoring 51 Schenectady county veterans and active duty service members for its 2019 banner program. Roughly 250 community members showed up to Schenectady Armory for the fifth annual unveiling ceremony, which came three days before Flag Day. The new banners will join 50 “alumni” banners from previous years, a concept new to the area, and all banners are being installed on light poles downtown beginning this week.
“It’s very, very nice for them to do it,” Boreali said. “I appreciate it and I want to thank everybody that’s involved.”
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and other local politicians, dignitaries and event supporters spoke at the unveiling about the importance of recognizing local heroes.
During the unveiling, DSIC members pulled off blue and red banner covers, showcasing the faces of local men and women who served the country as their names were read aloud.
Ray Legere, member of the DSIC and owner of the armory, said hosting the event is an honor each year, as he’s watched it grow from saluting 10 or 15 veterans each year to 50 Tuesday.
“It’s a great way to personalize the humans behind the positions,” he said. “Everybody says ‘veterans.’ But these are the people, these are the families. The folks that come here actually see the human side of it.”
Legere’s family honored his 87-year-old father-in-law at Tuesday’s ceremony and he said it’s moving to watch families see the city honor their loved ones.
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Romano Family with their father's banner, Angelo "Pelo" Romano, left to right, brothers and sister, Michael, Vincent, Linda Lucca, and Fred.
The process of arranging the banners started with the DSIC asking county residents to submit a form with a photo and biography of each veteran, and pay a fee. The photos then appear plastered on the banner as a way to recognize each vet’s sacrifices.
And after Veterans Day, when the city takes down the banners, the families and vets get to keep them.
Fred Romano and his siblings stood proudly by the banner honoring his father, Pelo Costondo Romano, at the unveiling.
The Romano family sent in the application to have Pelo, a Navy vet who “loved his country,” honored in the ceremony. Fred said he’s overwhelmed by the pride of seeing his late father featured among other local heroes.
“I’m overwhelmed by it, it was a wonderful ceremony. I’m glad they honor these men because they’re great people,” Romano said.