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Kathy DeGlopper, wife of Bill DeGlopper, sings the national anthem.
Kathy DeGlopper, wife of Bill DeGlopper, sings the national anthem.

Made in America Store pays tribute to those who served on D-Day

Sat, Jun 8th 2024 09:55 am

Article and Photos by Michael J. Billoni

Senior Contributing Writer

Six World War II veterans, who served in the United States Army, Army Air Corps, Marine Corps and Navy, and ranging in age from 94 to 103, were honored Wednesday morning at the Made in America Store in Elma – one day before the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

These veterans served in diverse capacities on land, sea and air – and from mechanic to bomber pilot, from infantryman to sailor. What they all had in common was the love they had for their country: the United States of America.

Tom Petre, president of the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight, read an excerpt of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s D-Day statement to the audience before addressing the veterans seated to his right.

“I am the son of a decorated World War II veteran and, as I look down the line at these veterans, gentlemen, you are our heroes,” he said as the audience applauded. “We are looking at heroes who saved this world. We live in a free country because of you, and the sunshine we share today is because of your dedication as a teenager, fighting for our country.”

“We love you for your service, and we need to bring back that patriotic spirit to this country today,” he added.

From left, Mark Andol, founder of the Made in America store; World War II veteran and Grand Island resident Joe Synakowski; and veteran Ray DeGlopper, uncle of WWII hero Pfc. Charles N. DeGlopper.


The ceremony also honored the memory of two fallen WWII heroes:

•Grand Island’s Charles N. DeGlopper, who was just 22 when he sacrificed his life to save his troop on June 9, 1944, as part of the D-Day operations in Normandy, France.

He was represented by members of his family, with Bill DeGlopper, a former teacher at Tonawanda High School, showing a yearbook with photos of Charlie, who was a student there. Kris DeGlopper, the niece of Ray DeGlopper – an official with the Grand Island American Legion Post 1346 – read a story about Charlie she told on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

With moist eyes and her voice cracking, she read the final letter Pfc. DeGlopper sent to his first cousin, Bernie.

It said, in part, “I am still having one helluva time for myself. Don’t know how long it will last but while it does, look out! Don’t you worry about giving me the news. You just carry on as you have been doing. You had better go back to that spiritualist and find out when this is going to be over. I would kinda like to know whether I will be coming home in the spring, summer, fall or winter. I am enclosing a picture of myself and hope you like it. So long for now. More later. As always, Charlie.”

•The youngest of the veterans was Grand Island resident Joe Synakowski, 94. He enlisted in the Army’s 82nd Airborne when he was 15 and returned at 18. He was an active member of the Pfc. Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial in the center of town.

“What an amazing, concentrated effort by the entire town,” he said of the memorial. “Everyone chipped in, and it was a great effort, and the result is a beautiful monument that he deserves. The statue is magnificent.”

Grand Island’s American Legion and VFW Post will host an 80th anniversary of D-Day and DeGlopper’s death at 12:15 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at the memorial, located at Baseline Road and Grand Island Boulevard.

“All are welcome to come out and support our veterans and our heroes,” Ray DeGlopper said. “Bring the entire family to celebrate our freedom.”

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